Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Denial: It Never Happened, But It Was Your Fault

  The 16 May 1778 issue of The Pennsylvania Ledger: Or the Philadelphia Market-Day Advertiser carried an essay by a man who identified himself only as “A British Officer.”  The British Army occupied Philadelphia, Pennsylvania until June 18, 1778. 
  The British officer at once denied and admitted horrendous atrocities.  Addressing the people of America, the British officer wrote, “We know that your scribblers have been lavish of their scurrilous abuse, in loading us with every imputation in humanity and cruelty, imputations equally false and scandalous….  Calamity and horror are inseparable and unavoidable companions of a civil war.  We wish it were possible to prevent them.” 
  The officer added, “Your leaders charge the war with all its calamities to our account, because they wish to inflame you…with such sentiments as may prompt you to persevere in sacrificing your peace and safety to support their usurpation.” 
  In other words, the horrors Americans suffer never really happened, but they are entirely your own fault. 
  Like many Britons opposed to what they considered “rebellion” by the Americans, the officer considered the conflict a civil war within the British realm, not a contest between two equal nations.  As a result, such Britons thought of the Americans as rebels, illegal combatants without any rights.
For more on Americans as illegal combatants, please check the post here.  For a modern historian who claims that American prisoners did not suffer so terribly, but their terrible suffering was totally unavoidable, please consult the book Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850, by Linda Colley.  
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