tv John Ferling Winning Independence CSPAN July 6, 2021 12:01pm-1:02pm EDT
he's written 13 books and many journal articles on the politics and tactics of the american revolution in the early republic. he's a biographer of george washington and john adams. while i can't read the names of his books and awards i prefer to take more about john amend. although his parents were from west virginia, he grew up in galveston texas. according to his biography his mother was college educated in the 1920s, taught school for 11 years until she was banned by west virginia law for marrying. his father also attended college on a scholarship of expression and it is academics. he took a job with union carbide in texas and that one son in 1940. john has a bachelors in histories from sam houston university and the masters in history from baylor university. although he is retired he hasn't stopped from speaking seminars, these kind of events, and
lecturing on podcast and spending time writing which is his biggest passion. he and his wife and their four cats live in atlanta. but there's one more thing john likes to share, his love of baseball. the first major league game he saw was in 1947 between pittsburgh and the brooklyn dodgers when jackie robinson scored the winning run. john was hooked for life. like any good historian he timed his research trip around games he won two seats. especially to boston to see the red sox. for those of us in new england we like to hear that. we know her audience is looking for to hearing more about your most recent book "winning independence", so let's begin. as he is doing your focus is been on the era of the american revolution. what do you love most about this chapter in our history? >> first, let me thank, thank you, guys for having me and the library avon historical society for inviting me tonight.
i've been looking forward to doing this. while i was drawn to the american revolution because that's where everything starts for the united states, and our political system, our social ideals were formed during the course of the revolution. if you think about it, lincoln when he talked about fourscore and seven years ago, was referring to 1776 and the ideals of equality and god-given rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all people. when martin luther king talked about having a dream come history was that african-americans would be cut in on the ideals that really began with the american revolution. so i was drawn to that, and i think in addition because the
revolution, studying the revolution consists of two things. on the one hand, there is the revolution itself which i think came as a surprise to most of the participants. a dozen years before 1776 no one foresaw the revolution coming, but there it was. and so the question comes up, why did it occur, and what was the revolution about? was it just a case of colonists trying to gain independence, or was it as thomas paine said in common sense in 1776, was it a struggle that would bring about a birthday of a new world? so there's plenty to study on, with regard to the american revolution, but in addition kind of a double deal there because you got a war.
most of the congressmen you certainly when they declared independence in july of 1776 that they really were not independent. they had to win independence, and that led to a long war, a war that had dark and uncertain times in 1776. then like a roller coaster things right when france allied with the united states in 1778, and many people felt that this virtually, including george washington for that matter, felt that this virtually assured american independence, and then things went south after that. the war becomes stalemated and that's the subject of my book, the four years after the great victory at saratoga, a period from 1778-yorktown in 1781 when
i think the outcome of the war was until the very last moment unknown. it could have gone in different directions. no one knew intel yorktown whether or not america would gain independence or if it did, if the united states would include all 13 states. so it's a long, dramatic struggle. i never get tired of looking at both revolution and the war itself and the fascinating cast of characters that were part of the political revolution, part of war. that's why i went into it and i stayed with the revolution throughout my career. >> thank you. your new book which is one we're featuring tonight, "winning
independence", and this is what hooked me as a grid. it challenges the assumption that america won the war. instead, great britain lost a war it could have one, which it think -- and you elaborate on the nuance of this thesis and i selected it for this volume? it's a very different way to look at the independence. >> sure. i think that the british had several opportunities at the outset of the war in 1776-1777 -- 1775, and seven to have won the war. general gage who was the commander of the british army at the time the run down to the war was coming on told london that winning the first engagement of wars is crucial. if we can have enough troops over here that we can just dramatic, score dramatic victory
of the colonists, then probably their fervor for war will dissipate. instead of that happening, lexington and concord occurred, and particularly the disaster that faced the british when they marched back from concord to boston. and then they had a chance to score dramatic victory too much later at bunker hill in boston. and really they could've scored a bloodless victory. sir hillary clinton who was the third in command at the time advised general gage, look, just send forces around to the back side and we will pin in the american rebels up on top of the hill and we can score a bloodless victory. but they didn't do that and they marched up the hill and marched into a disaster. there were two instances in the
campaign for new york in 76 when i think of the british had acted resolutely. first on brooklyn when they had about half of washington's army trapped and again in september of 76 when washington really foolishly kept his army on manhattan and didn't get all, that the british could have annihilated the entire continental army at that point. any of those victories would have won the war i think for the british come and they had another chance in 1777. the plan that london devised was for an army to come down from canada led by john while general howe moved north to rendezvous with burgoyne and kept washington's army in between.
instead of doing that, how left are going to his own devices and how went off after adelphia. and missed i think really the last major chance that the british had to win the war. but that's not to say that britain's defeat after that was guaranteed. because as i said, earlier it's a long desperate war, lots of things go wrong for the americans after 1778 as the war stalemated. the american economy collapsed. american morale was sagging, and george washington in august of 1780 wrote a letter to the chief executive of pennsylvania, which he said i have almost ceased
hope. and at the same moment washington was writing that letter, arthur lee who had been an american diplomat since the beginning of the war overseas in europe returned to america for the first time since before the war began. and he landed in boston. boston of all places now, and he's there for a few days and talks with a number of boston officials and massachusetts officials, and he wrote that most of those had by august of 1780 concluded that the war would end in a negotiated settlement, short of independence. so things are really up in the air here of course at yorktown, america does when and gains its victory, gained independence. so america did come out of the war victorious.
they would celebrate about five more years with the 250th anniversary of 1776. but i also argue that america could have not won the war without french assistance. the french were providing clandestine assistance starting in 1775. they provided munitions and weaponry and clothing and blankets and whatever for the americans. and then they allied with the americans and consent, then it was open help for the americans, they could provide even more help. they sent over and 80. they eventually sent over an army, and they load a great deal of money to the americans, which wound up costing the french king
his head in the 1790s because the economic woes, the fallout from all of those loans contributed to france's problems that brought on the french revolution after 1789. so anyway, the americans to win the war with french help, which i think is extremely important to remember. >> thank you. could we step back though to some leverage an earlier, and some you would probably don't know too much about, and that's general sir henry clinton. you put as part of your thesis he deserves dash special ws have historians missed understood and why disney receive credit for strategizing they capture south carolina, georgia and possibly north carolina, move that would change the outcome and redraw the map of america? >> okay. yeah, let me go to my powerpoint
here. that's washington as of what he knows, charles wilson, the old painting, and here's another one of washington. but here is sir henry clinton. clinton became the commander of the british army. he learned of his appointment in may of 1778. he was the third british commander during the war. gage had been there for many years before the revolution -- before the war, and was recalled after the disasters along concord road and at bunker hill. and generally will you now secured to him and howe was commander in the basics and 77, and resigned after saratoga. so clinton was then named the
commander, and he will be the commander of the british army from may of 78 through and a little bit beyond yorktown. i found clinton an interesting figure. he was from an aristocratic family in england. his father was a career naval officer who became the royal governor of new york, and young henry when he was still growing up spent some of his formative years in new york city. he joined the british army as a teenager, and he fought in two wars before the revolutionary war. and he earned a reputation as a brave, rages, risk taking soldier. he was seriously wounded. in fact, in an engagement in germany in the seven years war
in the early 17 '60s. he was an intellectually curious individual. he read widely, especially deeply on military history, military strategy. and in the year before the revolutionary war broke out, 1774, out of his own pocket to pay to make a trip deep into eastern europe to observe a war between the russians and the turks, hoping to learn more about military strategy and tactics. and then he came over as the third in command of the british army, landing just three or four weeks after lexington and concord, and just in time to see some action at bunker hill. he served i think with some
distinction in the couple of years before he is named commander and one a repetition in some circles as the best strategist among britain's high-ranking officers in america during that time. at the time of his appointment he was 48, two years older than washington but more than 30 years of experience, and i think he did a good job as a commander. but he had the misfortune, i think, of becoming commander at the same moment that france entered the war. and now that britain had to fight both the french and the americans, they had to withdraw some of their troops from america and send them to the caribbean to meet the new threat
posed by the french. so when clinton read his orders, he discovered that he had to immediately relinquish 8000 of his troops, and he had already lost all those troops that had surrendered at saratoga. so he was going to have an army -- he didn't did have ans considerably smaller than the army that the british had had in america a year before. but despite that his orders were to bring washington to battle, hold on to new york, hold on to rhode island and diplomat this southern strategy that we will talk about a little later on. he really faced an enormous task, and from the very beginning clinton knew that he
was up against it. my fate is hard, as he put it, in a letter he wrote almost immediately after being named commander. he said that he thought it was inevitable that britain would lose the war, and he feared that he would be scapegoated for the loss. of the war. it turned out he was precedent, because after yorktown -- crash yet. they did scapegoat clinton and they blame clinton, arguing that he had been to pass it, that he wasn't a risk taker, he wasn't dynamic enough. he just had not done enough, they argued to have won a war that britain could have one. most of those arguments were picked up by historians down the road so that clinton's
reputation in the literature has suffered as well. and i am trying to argue in the book that many of those allegations just aren't true. clinton was i think far more active than his foes suggested. he did take risk. he was far more active than washington was during the four years between saratoga and yorktown, for instance. thomas paine, after the war of the 1790s, wrote a blistering pamphlet attacking washington, and pain argued that i don't agree with this, but he argued that washington slept in the field, as he put it, and the real winners of the war word general horatio gage and nathaniel green.
but washington was generally in active during much of of the, and clinton was far more active. and i think the most devastating thing, most devastating attack or appraisal of clinton-kaine about almost 35 years ago but it was still read by scholars today and many still accept it. and it was a study made by clinton's biographer, principal biographer, in conjunction with a clinical psychologist. and they argued that clinton sought power, but that he had deep subliminal psychological problems that prevented him from acting on the power that he had. and i think, frankly think the argument is malarkey. not that i'm a particular row of
psychohistory, but in this case, you know, they were obviously unable to put clinton on the couch and talk with him. but in addition, clinton left behind virtually no private correspondence that would have opened a window to his inner self. so i think clinton's reputation suffered from that. there's your kitty. [laughing] >> just joining us now. >> that's all right. i have close the door so mine can't get in the room. but anyway, i think that that study on clinton should be filed away in the circular file. he surely made mistakes, , i recognize that in the book, but i think he was a good general,
and exceedingly good strategist who didn't have too often much to work with, and faced just enormous challenges. so i hope that my appraisal what convinced some people to take another look at sir henry clinton. >> i did not know anything about them before reading this. i did leave and lighting to terms of the scope and depth of his abilities. we will stay with them for a little bit and i just realized actually with the chronology annex question are out of order. i'm going to take yours and you take mine. so after britain's catastrophe at saratoga in 1777 it adopted new strategy for so-called southern strategy. what was it and what was britain attempted to gain in this war from 1778 onward? >> sure. after saratoga, the british, many people in england after
saratoga wanted to drop out of the war. it had gone on for three years. they had achieved virtually nothing, and now have lost an entire army at saratoga. and so when the news came out at saratoga, it triggered a lengthy debate in the war ministry. went on into the winter of 1778, and it was a debate over, for one thing, whether to remain in the war, and if the decision was made to remain in the war, whether, what kind of strategy with a pursue? down to this point the strategy been to try to destroy washington's continental army and also win control of several northern provinces.
and they really hadn't succeeded on either score. so at the end of the debate, the notion of remaining in the war prevailed largely because they came insisted that the war continue. and let me go back to my powerpoint here. and the person who really that the fight to remain in the war was lord george jermaine. he was the american secretary, or secretary of state for the american colonies. and jermaine, in deposition, jermaine was in essence the minister of war, and use also, he also had responsibility for britain's army in america. and he understood that a new strategy had to be developed,
and germain came up with what became known as the southern strategy. and that was essentially to inessential right off the northern colonies and attempt to regain control of two and possibly three colonies down south, georgia, south carolina, and possibly north carolina as well. and germain five that was a -- and germain thought that was a plausible strategy. i believe use generally correct in that score that a greater percentage of colonists in the southern colonies had remained loyal to england then wasn't the case in the northern colonies. they were tied to england by economically and through the
anglican church and other factors. so germain felt that by going into the south many of these loyalists would willingly bear arms for their king. and since many of the troops, as i said 8000 troops had to be relinquished my clinton, they could be replaced, hopefully, by loyalists, some of whom would come in to the regular british army and into what became known as provincial regiments, and others would go into newly structured loyalist militias. the idea was that the british army would drive the rebels out of an area in the number loyalist militia would come behind the british army and take possession of that area and pacify the area. and it worked out, this is what
the united united statesa got its independence, might have looked like following the war. the area in red is the area that would be the united states, and everything else on their in white would be possessed by the british. so if germain plan southern strategy penned out and georgia and south carolina and north carolina and virginia were retaken, the british already had east and west florida. they gain that in a war that ended in 1763. they still were in control of the trans-appalachian west and they were still in control of canada. so the united states would have been small, weak, surrounded by a great european power, and it would face very uncertain
future. future. in fact, there are many in england that thought if this played out in this fashion, and not very long many in the united states would seek to return to the british empire because they just would have very little capability of expanding and whatever. so that was the southern strategy, and cobbled together in the winter of 1778 in london, and doesn't mention a little bit earlier, when clinton receives his orders it includes implement the southern strategy, which he gets around to pretty fast. he sent a 3000 man expedition to georgia in december of 1778, and
then a one-day battle the british we took savannah. and then in 1780, clinton comes south, huge expedition down that retakes charleston in a siege operation in april and may of 1780. and then clinton appoints -- let me show you one more slide here will quickly. after charleston falls, clinton appoints -- there we go. he appoints general cornwallis, charles cornwallis to be in charge of the pacification of south carolina and georgia. and from day one, cornwallis
orders to focus on south carolina and georgia. he could go into north carolina. he thought it would help him with subduing the rebellion in south carolina and georgia. so cornwallis is going to be the major player in the war in the south from the time he takes command in june of 1780, down into the late spring of, well, in 1781 and all until he arrives at yorktown in the summer of 1781. clinton, meanwhile, comes back to new york and he never saw cornwallis again until after yorktown. that was the southern strategy and that's what the british were
trying to accomplish here and i try to argue in the book that they came reasonably close. some things went wrong that we can maybe talk a little bit later on this evening, but at the beginning of 1781 clinton was far more confident than washington was, what was going to happen that year. clinton later said that he began 1781 more confident of british success than in any of the other four years that he was commander. and i think what clinton ultimately thought was that if the allies, if the french and the americans could be prevented from scoring a decisive victory
in 1781, that the war would end in a negotiated settlement. and clinton wasn't alone in that. i think washington felt that. lafayette says that in his letters. john adams in europe is writing to congress and telling congress ready much the same thing. athens is telling congress look, the french company been in this war for three years and they have gained anything out of it so they have to gain something in 1781, or they are going to as a face-saving measure get out. they will accept an invitation from neutral nations in europe to come to a peace conference. and what would've happened at that peace conference is anybody's guess. maybe it would have recognized a united independent united states that was smaller, something along the lines of that map that i showed, or maybe it would not
agree to the independence of the united states. this would be, what event a conference primarily of european monarchs who were not very friendly toward republican governments, and that's what the united states had at that point. >> i think you answered the next three questions. >> sorry about that. >> that's okay. we have come up with a couple different ones, so let me, tina, i will take one that you wrote. when comparing and contrasting clinton washington, which you been doing this laugh hour, they emerges nearly parallel leadership potential and effectiveness. what is it about washington that by guiles the americans, independent of side, which men would you prefer to serve under and why? >> okay. let me come first of the comparison of clinton in washington, let me say couple of things about that.
there's a such that binds maybe a dozen pages were tried to look at the two and see what i could find about both of them. and i found that there were some similarities between the two, that neither man was a gregarious, outgoing individual. in washington's case, it may have been that washington had insecurities and that he didn't want people to get too close to him to discover what he feared were his week -- or images that sophie bend that washington as a leader felt that he could not let anybody get very close to him. he had to make difficult personal decisions. he didn't say this but it reminds me of what john f. kennedy said at one point. great leaders have to be both loved and feared.
and washington may have felt that way. in the case of clinton, clinton acknowledged that he was very shy and not outgoing. he made one of the strangest comments ever made by any historical figure. i am i shy bitch he says. so anyway, neither of them were really outgoing, but clinton i think made friends more easily than washington, who in the sense may never have had a really close friend in the real sense of the word throughout his life. but both clinton and washington were brave, courageous men under fire. i'm always amazed at the battle of princeton.
washington was riding on horseback, writing right into bridges soldiers who were firing at him, , and they were no furtr away from him that a picture is from a batter on a baseball diamond. that's pretty close not to flinch and as i said, clinton had earned a reputation in the wars before and again during the revolution as somebody who was courageous under fire. both of them i think faced somewhat similar problems during the war in that both had problems with supplies, and both had lack of money in lack of troops and whatever. and both clinton and washington endured considerable criticism during the war. i'm not sure how many people remember today but there was a
great deal of criticism of washington after he made several mistakes in the new york campaign in 76, and then after the campaign of 77 even more and more open criticism of washington here at one point the president of congress around 1778 said that when washington communicated with congress it was met with peals of laughter. i mean, but congress cut off -- congress could have ditched washington as some of his critics want to come but congress fortunately didn't take that step. it knew it would bring on just political chaos and would probably ruin the war effort. after that, congress cuts off the open criticism of washington, really launches a campaign to make washington an
iconic figure from valley forge on toward the end of the war, to elevate him so he would be above criticisms, and they began celebrating washington's birthday annually and that sort of thing. clinton ran into a lot of criticism, too. i think in the case of both of these guys it's sort of like my experience when i was a student, all the students complained about their professors get when i became a professor all the professors were complaining about the administrators and whatever. and i think some sort of thing went on in the british army and among the americans, too. there were things like issues over promotion, whatever, and people got left out were unhappy about that. so both of them ran into a great deal of criticism. but there were plenty of
differences between them. you mention when you are talking about why washington was a leader. one of differences is that washington i think was a better leader than clinton, and washington just exuded leadership. he was a big man. this was a time period when the study of muster rolls have demonstrated that the average full-grown american male was 5'7". it was only 58 in -- 5'8" in the korean war. washington towered over other people. he weighed, in 1780, and he weighed 210 pounds. so at explore to a ten pounds he is the same size as quarterback
of ohio state or clemson or university of alabama or something today. he did have a reputation of athleticism. athleticism in those days was a christine is him, how you rode a horse. he just seemed to majestic on horse. he seemed to walk graceful. clinton on your hand was about 5'7", pretty average in many ways. there were differences in that respect. one other difference was that other than the background, which was quite this summer because as i mentioned clinton was from an aristocratic family in england. but one of the difference was that people today often forget that washington, often see washington as being about politics.
but washington was really a very good politician. he was almost unsurpassed in his political skills. clinton acknowledged openly, even though he had actually held a seat in the house of commons at one time, he acknowledged that he was not a very good politician. he was just like a fish out of water in that regard. so there were some similarities end there were some differences. i have forgotten what the last part -- >> who would you like -- who would you serve under? >> oh, okay. well, that's a tough question. i guess that we depend on your rank and whatever, but i think i would've served under either, either man really. i mean, i think clinton was a
good general. neither of these guys were bloodthirsty. neither sent their men into battle in hopeless situations and squandered troops. and both of them were trying to preserve life. i think both, it is both i think had humanitarian qualities about them, but also because neither -- both had so many shortages. both face so many shortages of troops that they couldn't afford to lose troops. so i think they were, that both were good commanders. and it probably would have been willing to serve under either one of them. although i have to say that, i
don't know that it would have wanted to be a soldier in the revolutionary war on either side. it was a really tough go. i mean, these guys, the officers entire -- high-ranking officers when armies when the move, and they were on the move a lot, the high-ranking officers could travel on horseback, but anybody else marched. and they literally, many of these guys marched thousands of miles, and many of them, even in the british army. we know all about the suffering at valley forge and morristown, whatever in the american army. but even the british army in many cases, the men were ill provisioned, ill-equipped and whatever. it was really a tough go for these guys.
we are coming through a pandemic now, and these guys faced disease, at least in the american army, most of the american soldiers who died while it up dying of disease, not from combat. it was a risky, difficult, harsh environment that they faced. while i might have been willing to serve under both generals, i'm glad i didn't have to serve in that were on either side. >> here's a question i know she's dying to ask you. >> it has to do with being on both sides of the war. benedict arnold, is a true traitor are just a guy who wanted a steady paycheck? because -- >> that's kind of the million-dollar question and a lot of biographers have looked
at that. you can't get entirely in arnold's mine to know what's going on in there. let me try to answer it this way. he had some legitimate grievances. he had been passed over for promotion unfairly, unjustly i think, and then when he became the military commander in philadelphia, the british evacuated philadelphia. many people turned against them because he was consorting with families that were regarded as tory families. he married a woman who was the daughter of a family that was suspected of being a tory family. he was actually prosecuted for financial speculation.
so i think he had some really legitimate grievances. although, many other generals did, to come and only arnold is the one that commits treason, which thomas paine wrote a pamphlet about in the wake of this. i don't know whether paine really believe this or he was trying to smooth over the fallout from arnold's treason, and he pointed that out to people. but having said that, there's a second thing here. many people argue that arnold just was after the money, and he did get a great deal of money from the british for turning coat. but there's another side to that equation, and that is that arnold owned a considerable amount of property in new england. and if america wound up winning
the war he was going to lose all of that property. so it would really be kind of a trade-off. he would lose valuable property but gain the money that the british were going to pay him. he could've done probably just as well financially had he remained on the american side. but one of the things that's always intrigued me about arnold is that he negotiates with the british through intermediaries, those intermediaries report to sir henry clinton and for a long time clinton didn't know who he was that the intermediaries were talking to. he just knew that was an important american who might be willing to commit treason. and it's not until august 1780 that arnold makes the decision
to turncoat. and what happens in august of 1780? in august of 1780, cornwallis scored a huge victory over an american army at camden in south carolina, and army commanded by horatio gage. it was the fourth american army in 20 months that had been destroyed in the southern theater. and more than 8000 american troops had been killed, wounded, or captured in those four engagements. that's the same month that washington writes that letter saying i have almost ceased hope, and is the same month that are certainly in boston is saying that many of the leaders in massachusetts now believe the war is going to end in a
negotiated settlement, short of independence. so i think he can argue that went arnold finally makes his final decision to turncoat in august of 1780, he may very well have believed that the americans goose was cooked, and that the british were going to win the war and he was trying to get on the winning side. but having said all of that, it's all speculative. nobody really knows what's going on in arnold's mind. >> i do like you put in the context of all these time in english and the decision-making. so is not an impetuous move for him to suddenly switch sides. it really could've been anyone in a similar position in terms of rate an opportunity. and i did appreciate that putting in a new context and i couldn't resist asking if they really true traitor or just a
guy after paycheck, so thank you. well, i think we need to get question of the audience because this is been a critical review of this book and your history is just wonderful how it flows from you so thank you very much. are we ready for that. >> was the audience is typing in questions, i want to get to the last one we put together. i think it brings the historic story to the modern era and i'll give the audience time to type anything they like to ask. all war requires sacrifice at the numbers of the american revolution, were talking caches, people involved, lots of statistics in the book. they're staggering so what you what modern readers to understand about the impact and the consequences of war, and really this whole experience of it? >> yeah, i think there were two or three, probably many more than that in my mind, when i wrote the book. but one of the things was that,
that of artie mentioned, is that i want people to understand just how long this struggle to win independence was. i think because saratoga occurs in october 1777 and a huge british army surrenders there, and textbooks always depict saratoga as the turning point of the revolutionary war, that there has been a tendency on the part of many people to thank everything that followed saratoga was anticlimactic and the american victory was guaranteed. and so i wanted readers to come away from my book understanding that a long grim war had to be fought after saratoga. that victory was a guaranteed. it was a count as a said clinton
thought that clinton could still win the war in -- britain could still win the war in 1781. and i also wanted people to be aware of just how grim this war was. about 15% of those who fought on the british side died in this war. pretty heavy attrition. and as best i have been able to determine, roughly the same percentage of people who fought on the american side died in this war to try to prevent some kind of meaningful terms, the united states lost about 350,000 men in world war ii. but if the united states have lost 15% of its soldiery,
sailors in world war ii, more than 2 million americans would have died in that war. so it's a war that is really i think a much bloodier war than many people are aware. and also as i mentioned, i wanted people to understand that the outcome of the war is determined after saratoga, during that four-year struggle. and during that four years after saratoga, more americans died then died during the 30 months of war before saratoga, roughly about 65% of all americans who fought on america's side died after saratoga. there's another 4000 americans
who died fighting for great britain during this war. and, in fact, in 1780 there were more americans fighting for great britain than are fighting in the continental army. those were the things that i wanted readers to come away with. what i tried to do in the book was look at the crises that washington faced, crises that clinton faced, and then the decisions that they made during those crises. and what they knew and what they didn't know when they made those decisions. oftentimes i think people read history backwards. they know how it came out but the actors obviously didn't know that when they made their decision. they didn't know whether it would be a a good decision ora
bad decision, and had to just make the decision based on what they knew at that time. and so i tried throughout the book when i look at the decisions that clinton and washington and nathaniel green and others made, why they made the decisions that they did and what they knew when they made those decisions. >> we do have an audience question. what would've been a reason for the british to allow for negotiated peace? what would have been in it for them? >> okay. well, there were many people in england that just wanted to get out of the war. it had gone on for a long time. they were not winning the war. there was a fear they were going to lose all the trade with america that france would gobble up postwar commerce with america. and that the british economy might be ruined the longer the
war continued. so there were some in england who were pushing for a negotiated settlement. immediately after saratoga when lord north, the head of the war ministry, prime minister, learns of saratoga, he proposes a negotiated settlement. usually just referred to as the north peace plan of 1778. he actually sends a commission of diplomats that was known as a carlisle commission that came over to america in 1778, and they were authorized to negotiate a settlement. what clinton -- what lord north was willing to accept was essentially everything that the first continental congress had asked for on the eve of war,
with one exception, and that was independence. north would not recognize independence, but he was willing to let a continental congress remain. he was going to give the americans greater autonomy, and on and on and on, that the first continental congress had asked for. so certainly even write up to the pinnacle power in england there were people who were willing to accept a negotiated settlement. >> john, thank you. your answers have been thoughtful. your writing is thoughtful. the the book is extensively researched. it's absolutely enlightening, and i really do encourage our audience to pick it up and read because it has a completely different perspective and refreshing look at the american revolution, so thank you for spending evening with us, and we look forward to hopefully
>> good evening. i'm kevin butterfield, executive director of the washington library at george washington's mount vernon and coming to you from the library for an exciting evening book talk with patrick o'donnell. .. this exciting book the indispensable's. i want to mention one upcoming book, the >> tonight program to live
here in mount vernon is the official book launch of patrick o'donnell's new book indispensable's with the subtitle the divers soldier marines who shaped the country, the navy and road washington across the delaware gtpublished by atlantic monthly press today. we have a number of autographed copies going out to people who submitted questions. we've got excitingquestions lined up . during tonight's talk submit questions. let us know what you want to know from patrick and we can ask those questions tonight. i couldn't put this book down over the last week. it was reviewed just today in the wall street journal. they called it in half unlike any story you're aboutto hear about from patrick . it really moves very quickly. you learn more about gunpowder than you think you might . there's a lot to hear