The Declaration of independence was read to every American schoolboy; many of us were forced to learn her part by heart and recite in class. Any political party, wherever it was on the political spectrum, refers to the Declaration of independence as a “founding document” of America. Any American politician at some stage of their career (and often does annually July 4, the day of the signing of the Declaration) necessarily delivers a speech that, in his opinion, means the Declaration of independence for himself and for America today.
Was the declaration of independence intended to be a formal declaration of war? Why or why not?
But despite this and maybe that’s due to the fact that all are confident in your understanding of the reasons for the declaration of independence, about it there are a lot of myths. Most people really do not understand its historical context in terms of the declaration of independence was written to. Writing the declaration of independence is considered the “founding document” of America, but neither one of those people who wrote and signed, was not at that time an American citizen. They were all subjects of the British Empire. The standard approach is that the Declaration of independence was intended to dismantle the Empire. But I believe that it is not.
In July, 1776, commander-in-chief of the American army, George Washington receives a copy of the Declaration of independence. He camped in the Northern part of Manhattan, which later will be named in his honor Washington heights; his troops mostly dressed in blue uniform, but with height it can be seen thousands of British “redcoats”, the disembarking in new York Harbor on Staten island.
And here he sees these British troops, he picks up the Declaration of independence and read it to the American soldiers, and they take her with a storm of approval, shouting, shooting into the sky and so on. And then Washington, who would later become the first President of the United States, travels to his troops, prances in front of them on a horse and said, “I want to explain to you the meaning of this document. The point of this paper is that we fight to defend the British Constitution.”
How the constitution addressed the complaints in the declaration of independence
Why Washington believed that the Americans, not the British, defending the British Constitution? I think this is one of the important keys to understanding the Declaration of independence. But in this case, we need to understand what we mean under the British Constitution and how it developed during the XVIII century. I think one of the ways to tell this story and to think about that era is to stay a bit longer with George Washington and his family and see their house in mount Vernon, Northern Virginia.
More than a million Americans and foreign tourists come to mount Vernon each year. It seems to me that all of them would ask one question as far as I know according to their own polls, few people asked it, why this place is called mount Vernon? It is called so because, as George Washington wrote in one of his extant papers, his older half-brother Lawrence named the estate in honor of British Admiral Edward Vernon, under whom he fought at Cartagena in 1741.
How long did it take to write the declaration of independence
And this campaign became one of the most devastating disasters for the British Navy in the eighteenth century. It is easy to imagine how a place named after great military victories, such as Waterloo station in London, or in honor of the General the winner. But after shameful defeat, when 75-80 % of staff died from yellow fever, to name the place in honor of the commander a little weird. I think this is due to the fact that Lawrence Washington was more interested in political views of Edward Vernon than his military prowess. What they were and why could be so attractive to the family of Washington?
Edward Vernon was the second son of the hero of the revolution of 1688, James Vernon, who took up arms to overthrow c the throne of James II, and became Secretary of state under the new king. Edward inherited the revolutionary reputation of his father. In 1720 he was elected a member of the house of Commons and also served as an officer in the Navy. During the Anglo-Spanish war of 1727-1729 years Vernon is quite critical of the regime of then Prime Minister Robert Walpole, who sent a fleet to the Caribbean for the siege of Porto Bello, the Spanish city in Panama.
Porto-Bello in the eighteenth century was of great strategic importance, because through it was the silver from Mexico and Peru, on which was based the wealth of the Spanish Empire. The silver was “grease” all over the then world trade: when Europeans in the XVIII century, buying China or cotton from India, they pay for it by South American silver.
So there is nothing surprising in the fact that the British sent their fleet to Porto Bello. However, the Prime Minister Walpole, hoping to restore peace with Spain, never gave the order to attack. In the XVIII century it was a disaster: mosquitoes in the Caribbean were abundant, yellow fever was very common, and significant part of the personnel of the British Navy died. Edward Vernon was furious.
At the meeting of the house of Commons he stood up and said, “Any sailor worth his salary could capture Porto Bello; he was such an easy target that he could take with just six ships.” Present at the meeting, Prime Minister Robert Walpole was a man of powerful physique, taller than 190 centimeters and weighing 160 pounds, he would be considered large in our time and in the XVIII century he was a giant in all respects. Instead of answering, Vernon, Walpole leaned back in his chair and began to laugh. And his supporters he had a majority in Parliament, laughed with him. Young opposition politician Edward Vernon stormed out of the house of Commons, burning with shame.
A decade later, in 1739, Britain again goes to war with Spain. Robert Walpole still holds the post of Prime Minister, but now he is forced to appoint Admiral Vernon. He demands to send him to the Caribbean in November 1739 attack on Porto Bello with six ships and seizes him less than 12 hours. Vernon immediately becomes a hero: in honor of the capture of Porto-Bello produced coins and compose ballads, the great English novelist Henry Fielding even started writing an epic poem called “Veronica” she, however, was so.
The important thing is that this victory was perceived as a victory for the Patriotic party, with which he connected himself Vernon. This party was in opposition of Walpole’s party, and it existed throughout the British Empire. She was more than a parliamentary party, having supporters not only in England but also in Scotland, Ireland, North America, the West Indies, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta (British great “presidencies” of India). Lawrence Washington and North American volunteers went to Cartagena under the command of Edward Vernon, supported this Patriotic movement. What ideals have served Patriotic party?
In order to understand this, you need to deal with the key problems which faced the British Empire at this time. One of the main was huge government debt. We used to think that public debt and debt crises is the problem of the twentieth century, States began to face this problem in the end of XVII and in the XVIII century. I certainly don’t want to say that until that time, kings, kings and emperors did not take the money in debt, but it usually happened like this: the king say, Philip II of Spain decides to borrow money to subdue the rebellious subjects in the Netherlands. He turns to his Italian bankers and asks them about the loan.
In 10-15 years the Italian banker said to the king: “You took us a lot of money, it’s time to return”. Philip II says: “I Want to show you what I have a great prison cell”. That is, the debts are often not returned. But in the eighteenth century the state began to repay debts: in part because they have to borrow more money than before, and also because there was a competitive international loan market. Now the bankers gave loans not only to their king but also to those States that are most likely to return the favor and agree to the highest interest rate.
In 1720-30 years, Britain was almost certainly the largest debt in Europe, because by that time she had already participated in two large-scale wars with France and its allies in the 1690s and early eighteenth century as well as in two small wars with Spain. In this case the British Empire in the eighteenth century differed greatly from their Imperial competitors. European States spend a huge amount of money for the war.
For example, Russia under Catherine the great, the Holy Roman Empire, the Prussian state (especially after the reign of Frederick the Great) they spent the vast majority of their income from taxes and duties for the military. France and the Republic of the Netherlands was spending on the war about 80 %. The British Empire is about 65 %. This left a huge stock in order to somehow improve the welfare of the people, to contribute to his happiness.