Vindication of King George III (yes, that one)


Courtesy / National Portrait Gallery London

George III, possibly not such a bad guy

Mac Connors, Crier Staff

As we approach the 249th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party rebellion, it would be appropriate to look beyond the obstreperous din of the occasion and at the legacy of the monarch whom this act was committed against. While nobody is perfect, the charges leveled against King George III are false, and were perpetuated by those who hated the very institution of monarchy for their own reasons. In sum, George III, who ruled as the king of Great Britain from 1760 until 1820, was not an ignoble tyrant as history has made him out to be, but rather a kind, benevolent, and respectable monarch.

In 1763, during Pontiac’s Rebellion, several Indian tribes formed an alliance and began attacking British forts and trading posts in an attempt to show their dissatisfaction with British policies in the region. Although drafted already, the king quickly issued the Proclamation of 1763, which banned colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains, as the land was rightfully protected as Indian land. The colonists rebelled against the king’s proclamation as unfair, especially since they had begun the French and Indian War by claiming the Ohio Country, which was now in the protected Indian land, as part of the Virginia Colony. They soon inhabited the land against the king’s wishes and took the land away from the natives, who had been granted protection by the king. This would mark the beginning of the colonial rebellion against Britain and the expansion westward, which would crescendo to the ever-famous manifest destiny in the 1840s and the erasure of Indian land altogether.

Several years after the proclamation, the British Parliament began passing taxes on the colonists, starting with the Stamp Act of 1765. The colonists were outraged and demanded the repeal of the act immediately. While the act was repealed the following year, Parliament continued to pass other taxes. By 1773, these taxes culminated in the Boston Tea Party, which was a direct reaction to a tax on tea. At this time, the American colonies had an average income per capita of £13.85, while the British only had an average income of £10-12 per capita, thus making the colonies the wealthiest region in the western world. At the height of British taxation, the colonies were only taxed between 1% and 1.5%, while the mainland British were taxed 5% to 7%. Even the most exorbitant taxes were minute compared to taxes in Britain, and lest I forget that trite rebel expression, “No taxation without representation.” However, in Britain, only land-owning men could vote. In a pamphlet written by a member of the British parliament called Objections to the taxation of our American colonies, by the legislature of Great Britain, briefly consider’d, it was estimated that close to 90% of the British people did not own land and could thus not vote, yet were represented under the principle of “virtual” representation.

The colonists also despised George III for the allowance of free practice of the Catholic faith in the colonies. Following the acquisition of the French colonies of Canada and the present northwestern United States in 1763, the British found themselves ruling over a vast area wherein many Catholics resided. To protect the Catholic population, the king enacted the Quebec Act of 1774. The colonists protested the act, falsely claiming that it established the Catholic faith in the colonies. They also excoriated the act for giving some of the lands in the Ohio country to Quebec. The colonial governments condemned this expansion of Quebec’s territory and believed that it took away their land rights over the western frontier. The Declaration of Independence specifically lambasted the act “for abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies.” However, the colonists would soon prove to be hypocrites, as their Articles of Confederation, adopted five years later, would invite Canada to join the newly created United States, which seems like an imposition of the revolutionary zeal over our northern neighbors. The rank hypocrisy in the objections and the hatred of the Catholic faith are befitting hallmarks for those who so detested an honorable and noble ruler.

While George III was certainly an imperfect man, he cannot be inducted into the halls of tyranny with Nero and Henry VIII. He is simply a case of a righteous person who has been written down by history’s victors. Rather than perpetuating the hatred of George III, we should examine his legacy objectively and take lessons from his long reign, whether good or bad. God save the king!