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It is to the credit of Whig leaders in England, landowners and aristocrats as they were, that they supported with passion the American cause. In America, where the forces of the Revolution were in control, the Loyalist who dared to be bold for his opinions was likely to be tarred and feathered and to lose his property. There was an embittered intolerance. In England, however, it was an open question in society whether to be for or against the American cause. The Duke of Richmond, a great grandson of Charles II, said in the House of Lords that under no code should the fighting Americans be considered traitors. What they did was "perfectly justifiable in every possible political and moral sense." All the world knows that Chatham and Burke and Fox urged the conciliation of America and hundreds took the same stand. Burke said of General Conway, a man of position, that when he secured a majority in the House of Commons against the Stamp Act his face shone as the face of an angel. Since the bishops almost to a man voted with the King, Conway attacked them as in this untrue to their high office. Sir George Savile, whose benevolence, supported by great wealth, made him widely respected and loved, said that the Americans were right in appealing to arms. Coke of Norfolk was a landed magnate who lived in regal style. His seat of Holkham was one of those great new palaces which the age reared at such elaborate cost. It was full of beautiful things--the art of Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and Van Dyke, rare manuscripts, books, and tapestries. So magnificent was Coke that a legend long ran that his horses were shod with gold and that the wheels of his chariots were of solid silver. In the country he drove six horses. In town only the King did this. Coke despised George III, chiefly on account of his American policy, and to avoid the reproach of rivaling the King's estate, he took joy in driving past the palace in London with a donkey as his sixth animal and in flicking his whip at the King. When he was offered a peerage by the King he denounced with fiery wrath the minister through whom it was offered as attempting to bribe him. Coke declared that if one of the King's ministers held up a hat in the House of Commons and said that it was a green bag the majority of the members would solemnly vote that it was a green bag. The bribery which brought this blind obedience of Toryism filled Coke with fury. In youth he had been taught never to trust a Tory and he could say "I never have and, by God, I never will." One of his children asked their mother whether Tories were born wicked or after birth became wicked. The uncompromising answer was: "They are born wicked and they grow up worse."
There is, of course, in much of this something of the malignance of party. In an age when one reverend theologian, Toplady, called another theologian, John Wesley, "a low and puny tadpole in Divinity" we must expect harsh epithets. But behind this bitterness lay a deep conviction of the righteousness of the American cause. At a great banquet at Holkham, Coke omitted the toast of the King; but every night during the American war he drank the health of Washington as the greatest man on earth. The war, he said, was the King's war, ministers were his tools, the press was bought. He denounced later the King's reception of the traitor Arnold. When the King's degenerate son, who became George IV, after some special misconduct, wrote to propose his annual visit to Holkham, Coke replied, "Holkham is open to strangers on Tuesdays." It was an independent and irate England which spoke in Coke. Those who paid taxes, he said, should control those who governed. America was not getting fair play. Both Coke and Fox, and no doubt many others, wore waistcoats of blue and buff because these were the colors of the uniforms of Washington's army.
Washington and Coke exchanged messages and they would have been congenial companions; for Coke, like Washington, was above all a farmer and tried to improve agriculture. Never for a moment, he said, had time hung heavy on his hands in the country. He began on his estate the culture of the potato, and for some time the best he could hear of it from his stolid tenantry was that it would not poison the pigs. Coke would have fought the levy of a penny of unjust taxation and he understood Washington. The American gentleman and the English gentleman had a common outlook.
Now had come, however, the hour for political separation. By reluctant but inevitable steps America made up its mind to declare for independence. At first continued loyalty to the King was urged on the plea that he was in the hands of evil-minded ministers, inspired by diabolical rage, or in those of an "infernal villain" such as the soldier, General Gage, a second Pharaoh; though it must be admitted that even then the King was "the tyrant of Great Britain." After Bunker Hill spasmodic declarations of independence were made here and there by local bodies. When Congress organized an army, invaded Canada, and besieged Boston, it was hard to protest loyalty to a King whose forces were those of an enemy. Moreover independence would, in the eyes at least of foreign governments, give the colonies the rights of belligerents and enable them to claim for their fighting forces the treatment due to a regular army and the exchange of prisoners with the British. They could, too, make alliances with other nations. Some clamored for independence for a reason more sinister--that they might punish those who held to the King and seize their property. There were thirteen colonies in arms and each of them had to form some kind of government which would work without a king as part of its mechanism. One by one such governments were formed. King George, as we have seen, helped the colonies to make up their minds. They were in no mood to be called erring children who must implore undeserved mercy and not force a loving parent to take unwilling vengeance. "Our plantations" and "our subjects in the colonies" would simply not learn obedience. If George III would not reply to their petitions until they laid down their arms, they could manage to get on without a king. If England, as Horace Walpole admitted, would not take them seriously and speakers in Parliament called them obscure ruffians and cowards, so much the worse for England.
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Washington and his Comrades in Arms -by- George Wrong