“This the king. Fisher continues, “In New
“This history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation, all having, in direct object, the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States. ” King George comes up in the Declaration of Independence because he (along with Parliament) was adamant about controlling the colonies and making sure they stayed under England’s thumb. King George is the one who actually first called the colonists “rebels,” and so, he became the target of the American Revolution.In February of 1775, King George III spoke before Parliament and said that America was in a “state of rebellion. ” This led to several states declaring their own independent resolutions and dissolving their association with Great Britain.
One of these declarations was the Mecklenburg resolutions, created by the citizens of Mecklenburg County in North Carolina. Historian Sydney George Fisher writes, “That declaration of rebellion, said the Mecklenburg resolutions, necessarily annulled all British laws in America and suspended for the present all civil government derived from Great Britain” (Fisher 324).While the Mecklenburg declaration had little impact on the rest of the war, it shows the sentiment of the people and their reaction to what they saw as tyranny by King George III and Parliament. Because Americans had been used to governing themselves since they first came to America, when King George and Parliament tried to levy taxes and place more control on the colony, the people did not like it. King George did not enact all the laws affecting the colonies, the Parliament did, but he became a symbol of English tyranny to the Americans.When the Declaration of Independence was first read to the people, many people reacted by showing their hatred of the king. Fisher continues, “In New York as soon as the patriots heard of the Declaration they dragged down the gilt statue of the king on the Bowling Green and cut off its head” (Fisher 461).
Americans hated the King because he allowed the injustices to continue, he condoned them, and he had called the colonists rebels.He may not have been responsible for all the problems in the colonies, but he was the figurehead that represented the country that was causing their problems, and so, they came to see him as a symbol of tyranny and repression. King George III began his reign in 1760, and had only a few years to help impose many new laws and tariffs on the Americans, so he was new in their minds and a handy scapegoat.
It is not surprising that he was mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, because the founding fathers wrote that document to declare our independence but also to incite Americans to rise up against Great Britain.Americans needed a “villain” to blame their troubles on, and King George was handy, well known, and helpful in starting a Revolution. However, it really was not King George that levied tariffs and taxed the Americans. It was Parliament who really handed out the laws, and Parliament that the Americans really had a quarrel with. As historian John C.
Wahlke notes, “Up to 1774 Americans had done little thinking in this vein thinking of the tyranny of King George III.The authority of Parliament had been the bone of contention, and the participation of the King in the exercise of that authority had been studiously or carelessly ignored” (Wahlke 65). Americans began to say that Parliament did not rule them. They might have allegiance to King George, but they chose their allegiance by free will, and they did not “owe” Parliament anything.
When King George called them rebels, he became part of the problem, and part of the founding father’s arguments against the tyranny of foreign rule.Wahlke continues, “Having already proved, largely through their own reading of history, that they were totally outside the jurisdiction of Parliament and were subjects of the King by free choice, they had only to prove to a candid world that the latter, not the former, had played the tyrant” (Wahlke 65). Thus, proving King George was a tyrant helped Americans feel better about giving up English rule, and helped justify the American Revolution throughout the country. Mentioning the King in the Declaration of Independence just added fuel to the fire and gave incentive to even more Americans to revolt.King George may have been many things, from illiterate to perhaps even mad, but he did not cause the American Revolution alone. Parliament had a very big hand in creating dissent, and King George and British policies just helped things along. The Declaration of Independence for its’ time was an inflammatory document, and the authors needed a real “villain” to make Americans feel more justified in the upcoming war.
King George had called Americans rebels just a few months before the document was written, and so, he was a good and timely target.The Declaration of Independence was not a perfect document, and the Revolutionary War was not a perfect revolt. There were many Americans who still admired their King and did not want to break with Great Britain. Those that did had to convince others however they could. It is just like today when you have to be careful about what media you trust and what you do not trust. The Revolutionaries were advancing their own cause at the expense of rulers like King George. He may not have been a perfect ruler, but the American Revolutionaries were not without fault, either.
King George just happened to make good fodder for American aims. He did support the aims of Parliament, and did believe that Americans should pay a fair share of British taxes. However, he was not the only cause of tyranny against America, and he was not the only cause of the Revolutionary War. Bibliography : Fisher, Sydney George.
The Struggle for American Independence. Vol. 1. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971. Wahlke, John C.
, ed. The Causes of the American Revolution. Revised ed. Boston: D. C. Heath and Company, 1967.