". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, June 10, 2011

The War of Jenkin's Ear -- Random Musings

(1739-1743). Has been called the "most ridiculous war in military history."

Which war was the consequence of the War of the Spanish Succession. Underneath it all, it was a continuation of the wars of religion -- Protestant England vs Catholic Holy Roman Empire.

If I am recalling correctly, this is the second Golden Age of Piracy, with Spain, France and England mutually at each others' throats. It was over trade, due to the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), that concluded the War of the Spanish Sucession. The (a Bourbon, i.e. French) Spanish monarch awarded England (the British South Sea Company) the asiento, the monopoly over the slave supply to the Spanish American colonies.

The Gentlemen's Magazine, 1747, out of London provides a descriptive list of taken merchant vessels and taken privateers as well. There was so much action at sea with the privateers and the merchant vessels one could almost wonder if this war was merely a pretext to go pillaging on the water.

Full text of the list, via google books.

Even Marylanders got in their licks, both as booty and as privateers. This war marks the first time 'American' was used by His Majesty's service as opposed to English, and the first time Britain used her colonial troops outside of North America. Only two-thirds returned. So far as we know, there were none from Maryland. George Washington's stepbrother Lawrence was an aide to Admiral Edward Vernon ("Old Grog"). According to mythology, Vernon, being so disgusted with the amount of rum his forces consumed, had water added to the bottles, thus creating Grog. Upon Lawrence's return, he established his estate on the Potomac -- presumably with his share of the naval campaign booty, which would have been considerable due to his rank as aide to the Admiral -- which he named -- Mount Vernon.

On the heels -- stern? -- of the War of Jenkin's Ear, followed the War of Austrian Succession, mostly fought in Europe. Here it was called King George's War (1744-1748) and was fought mostly in Canada. What we call the French and Indian Wars here, the Seven Years War in Europe (1754 to 1763), soon followed King George's War. These are all installments, some say, of the eternal struggle for global, colonial, political and trade dominance between England and France.  Maryland troops participated in all three.

The War of Independence was part of that same struggle, because without the aid of France there wouldn't have been independence -- for instance, without the French naval blockade and instruction in siege and sapping, Corwallis might well be sitting still in Yorktown today.  France provided the financial and military aid because it snooted Britain's cock, not so much because of a love of American ideals of liberty.

The extended imperial, global struggle among England, France and Spain, reveals to the historian that the North American colonists were not as innocent of military experience as Revolutionary mythology proposes. A significant contingent of them had been gaining real experience since the first days of the first colonial foundings. Thus, when war was declared there wasn't a rush to howl in delirious joy, throw hats and wigs into the air, and giggle, "We'll beat 'em by Christmas," -- unlike the secesh of the CSA.

Dates are your historical compasses, anchors, ballast and buoys in the heaving sea of Contingency.

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