Schools that are closed are “open fully” (flashback to 2020)

My favorite NYT headline of August 5, 2020 characterizes schools that are 100-percent closed as “open fully”:

Supporting those in New York, Maskachusetts, Chicago, and California who now say that lockdowns and school closures never happened, this headline cannot be found either with a Google search or a search on itself.

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The Inevitable Demise of the Web

Remember to listen to the credentialed experts, such as Hal Berghel, Ph.D. computer nerd. A 1995 academic paper… “The inevitable demise of the Web”:

There is no doubt that the fastest growing part of the Internet is the World Wide Web. From its inception in 1990, the Web has established itself as the leading packet hauler on the Internet, passing beyond FTP, Telnet, WAIS Gopher and all of the other, more established Internet client protocols. The reason for this success is that the Web has established itself as the standard unifying environment for the Internet’s digital riches.However, the days of the Web are numbered. The technology behind the Web is outdated already and may not survive the decade. The current growth rate, which some estimate at 15% per month, suggests that if the end of the Web is to come soon, it will likely be cataclysmal. If this seems unrealistic, consider that this fate befell Gopherspace. As Figure 1 shows, Gopher lead the Web in packet volume as late as March, 1994. In the following twelve months Gopher presence on the Internet all but disappeared. Life cycles are accelerated to frightening paces on the Internet.

Dr. Berghel predicts that, with a little more innovation (from funded academic research?), the muscular connection-oriented Hyper-G protocol will crush HTTP and Java will replace HTML.

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Remembering William Lewis Herndon, captain of the gold-laden SS Central America

On this Memorial Day I’d like to celebrate the memory of William Lewis Herndon, author of Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon and captain of the SS Central America, a commercial ship with a U.S. Navy captain that sank off the Carolinas during a hurricane in 1857, resulting in a loss of 425 lives, mostly people returning from the California Gold Rush. Herndon could have escaped with his life, but chose to go down with the ship after ensuring that all women and children had been evacuated (including Lucy Dawson, the only black woman on board; we are informed today that Americans in 1857 were irredeemably racist, yet white men gave up their lives so that Ms. Dawson could keep hers).

Herndon is described in Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea: The History and Discovery of the World’s Richest Shipwreck (Gary Kinder, 1998):

Married and the father of one daughter, Herndon was slight, and at forty-three balding; a red beard ran the fringe of his jaw from temple to temple. Though he looked like a professor or a banker more than a sea captain, he had been twenty-nine years at sea, in the Mexican War and the Second Seminole War, in the Atlantic and the Pacific, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean Sea. He knew sailing ships and steamers and had handled both in all weather. He was also an explorer, internationally known and greatly admired, who had seen things no other American and few white men had ever seen.

Herndon ordered Ashby and his first officer not to let a single man into the boats until all of the women and children were off. “While they were getting into the boats,” observed one man from the bailing lines, “there was the utmost coolness and self-control among the passengers; not a man attempted to get into the boats. Captain Herndon gave orders that none but the ladies and children should get into the boats, and he was obeyed to the letter.”

The ship took 30,000 lbs. of gold 8,000′ underwater, which is what led to the main story of the above book. This cargo was worth $8 million at the time and roughly 1 billion Bidies today (inflation of 125X or 12,500 percent).

If you can tolerate an old-style book in which race, gender ID, and sexual orientation are seldom mentioned, the story of engineering challenges being addressed one after another is fascinating. The hero of the book is Tommy Thompson, a self-motivated engineer who attends Ohio State, works for Key West treasure hunter Mel Fisher, and comes back to work for Batelle. While at Batelle, he comes up with the idea of salvaging wrecks in the deep ocean.

“A galleon drafted about fifteen feet,” Tommy told Bob, “so they generally hit reefs in about fifteen feet of water. It is not like men to leave gold lying in fifteen feet of water.” Most of the artifacts Fisher had found were at twelve feet, and the only reason Spanish salvage divers had not completely stripped the Atocha in 1622 is because a second, far bigger storm had hit the wreck site three weeks later.

During the three centuries following Columbus’s voyages to the New World, much of the gold and silver on earth had been transferred from the New World to the Old World, and 25 percent of it had been lost. But don’t search for it among the thousands of shallow-water shipwrecks in the Caribbean, said Tommy; the odds were too slim. Search for treasure where storms couldn’t buffet the remains, where ships were not piled on top of each other, where the bottom was hard and the currents slow, and where no government could stake a claim. Tommy told Bob he wanted to recover historic shipwrecks in the deep ocean.

A key enabler of the quest for the Central America‘s gold is Martin Klein, the inventor of practical side scan sonar, but this MIT graduate is not credited by the author. Once found, however, there is a question of how to conduct mining operations on the ocean floor with mid-1980s technology.

If you got your submersible safely into the water, your ship at the surface was rising and falling while your submersible was descending; each fall caused the cable to go slack, and each rise snapped the cable taut, like pulling a car with a chain. That load suddenly became ten times heavier than the submersible itself, and the cable often broke and you lost your submersible. That armored cable was filled with electromechanical wires that carried signals down to the sub and back again. If the snap loading didn’t break it, every time that cable passed over a pulley, the wires bent and straightened with the weight of the vehicle, and often ten times the weight of the vehicle, and the wires fatigued and parted. A replacement cable took three months to manufacture, and carrying a spare cable on board meant needing more space on a bigger ship, tended by a larger crew, for much more money. Attempting to land on the seafloor was risky and difficult for two reasons: First, the rocking of the ship would jerk the vehicle—one minute you’d be looking at the bottom, the next minute you’d see nothing, the next minute the camera would be in the mud. Second, hanging something heavy on the end of a cable twisted the cable; if you set that heavy weight on the seafloor and slackened the cable at the same time, the twisted cable tied itself in knots, like the cord on a telephone. When an armored cable with several thousand pounds on the end kinked up, and the bouncing of the ship topside jerked on those kinks, the cable again often broke, which meant you left your vehicle on the bottom and headed back to the beach for the rest of the season.

Everyone who had previously worked in this area was funded by militaries, which had essentially unlimited budgets to look for sunken submarines and similar valuable items. Tommy Thompson needed to do the job for $millions when others had failed with $1 billion budgets. There’s also an interesting legal challenge:

The Central America lay at the far reaches of the Economic Zone, almost two hundred miles offshore. No one had ever tried to recover an historic shipwreck so deep it lay beyond the three-mile boundary. Tommy could bring a piece of the Central America into the courtroom, but no one knew what would happen next.

One of the more unusual challenges was how to bring up gold coins without scratching them, which would reduce their value to collectors. The team of salvors came up with the idea of a silicone injection process that would embed gold objects in a block of the soft substance before it was all brought to the surface.

If you love engineering, I recommend Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea. Even if you don’t love engineering, I hope that you’ll join me in remember Captain Herndon and his decades of service in what was a hazardous job back then (wooden ships combined with no GPS and no weather forecasts).

(Since 1998, Mr. Thompson’s career has developed some warts. I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but let’s just say that, as in family court, a big pot of gold can lead to accusations of unfairness.)


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How about decimation for the Memphis police department and city government?

The Killing of Tyre Nichols seems to be fading from the news. The New York Times thinks that pizza is more important:

There has been no coherent explanation thus far of why the police killed this particular guy, as opposed to all of the other people with whom they interact daily, but presumably no explanation could justify their actions.

We are informed that the problem is the culture/institution, not the individuals. See “The Myth Propelling America’s Violent Police Culture” (Atlantic, Jan 31, 2023):

This past weekend, as I watched the videos of Tyre Nichols being beaten to death, I asked myself, Why does this keep happening? But I know the answer: It’s police culture—rooted in a tribal mentality, built on a false myth of a war between good and evil, fed by political indifference to the real drivers of violence in our communities. We continue to use police to maintain order as a substitute for equality and adequate social services. It will take a generation of courageous leaders to change this culture, to reject this myth, and to truly promote a mission of service—a mission that won’t drive officers to lose their humanity.

The organization is at fault, in other words, and the problems extend to the city government as a whole because crime wouldn’t happen if there were “equality and adequate social services”. The author’s point that police officers’ behavior are primarily driven by peer expectations rings true and, therefore, merely imprisoning or executing a few rogue officers won’t stop the next murder by police.

What would happen in Roman times if there were serious problems with a military unit (and the police in the U.S. definitely qualify as “military”)? Decimation:

Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = “ten”) was a form of Roman military discipline in which every tenth man in a group was executed by members of his cohort. The discipline was used by senior commanders in the Roman army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination, and for pacification of rebellious legions.

The word decimation is derived from Latin meaning “removal of a tenth”. The procedure was an attempt to balance the need to punish serious offences with the realities of managing a large group of offenders.

A cohort (roughly 480 soldiers) selected for punishment by decimation was divided into groups of ten. Each group drew lots (sortition), and the soldier on whom the lot of the shortest straw fell was executed by his nine comrades, often by stoning, clubbing, or stabbing. The remaining soldiers were often given rations of barley instead of wheat (the latter being the standard soldier’s diet) for a few days, and required to bivouac outside the fortified security of the camp for some time.

As the punishment fell by lot, all soldiers in a group sentenced to decimation were potentially liable for execution, regardless of individual degrees of fault, rank, or distinction.

An authentic Roman-style decimation would presumably offend modern sensibilities, but maybe the proven management technique could be adapted for our kinder, gentler world (albeit not kinder or gentler for Tyre Nichols). In addition to individual punishments for the perpetrators (they’re charged with second-degree murder so they cannot be executed), why not cut the salary of every employee in the Memphis police department by 10 percent and take away a year of pension entitlement? The chief of police (“Memphis Police Department’s first Black female chief”) and mayor (“A Democrat, he previously served as a member of the Memphis City Council”) would be fired. These kinds of punishments would give institutions the incentive to reform themselves. Absent collective punishment, which of course will seem unfair to many, why should institutions bother to change?


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King George III and the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community

Happy Pride Month! Let’s look back at an early champion of Pride.

The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III (Andrew Roberts):

In September 1772, John Wilkes joined other important City figures in criticizing the King’s commutation of capital punishment for Captain Robert Jones, who had been sentenced to hang for sodomizing a thirteen-year-old boy (although surprisingly the victim’s age did not seem to have played a part in Jones’ conviction). Friends of Jones – a fireworks expert who had also popularized the sport of figure skating – produced female prostitutes who attested to his bisexuality, as though that would alleviate the seriousness of the crime. Jones (who was in fact an artillery lieutenant) was due to hang until, on the day of the execution, George commuted his sentence to life imprisonment, and then a month later allowed him to go into lifelong exile in the South of France.

Nor was it the only time that George defied the vicious prejudices of the day against homosexuality and bisexuality. In June 1766, as a favour to his theatre-loving brother Prince Edward, the King signed a document making the Little Theatre in Haymarket into the Theatre Royal, which stated that it was ‘Our will and pleasure’ that Samuel Foote, the flamboyant impresario, should have ‘a company of comedians’ act there every summer, and authorized him to charge the sums necessary to offset ‘the great expense of scenes, music and new decorations’.

A footnote showing how much we’ve been enriched by the work of Gender Studies faculty:

These labels of sexual identity were not recognized in the eighteenth century, when people thought and spoke in terms of actual sexual practices, such as sodomy, onanism and so on.

Imagine if elementary school kids, instead of being taught 2SLGBTQQIA+ vocabulary, received an education regarding “actual sexual practices”!


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Memorial Day reading: The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors

For Memorial Day, let me recommend The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, a book about the Battle off Samar, in which puny destroyer-escorts and destroyers charged heavy Japanese cruisers and battleships in an attempt to prevent destruction by surface fire of American escort carriers (cargo ships with a flight deck, essentially).

The situation was the opposite of the typical American military engagement, in which we enjoy an overwhelming advantage in numbers and equipment. Most of the American fleet had steamed far away, distracted by a Japanese decoy force.

The book is also timely because the events are the opposite of what happened in Uvalde, Texas. There, the heavily armed, full armored, and numerous police were so intimidated by a single teenager that they took no action. Off Samar, however, captains of absurdly small vessels steamed forward into what they expected to be near-certain death in order to protect the escort carriers and their crews.

Here’s the Samuel B. Roberts, at 1350 tons:

She was sunk by the Kongō, 36,600 tons.

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Pandemic increases the wealth, power, and prestige of doctors and public health officials even when their remedies are ineffective

I recently finished After the Plague, a lecture series by Simon Doubleday, a professor at Hofstra. The pandemic of the lectures is the Black Death of the 14th century. As with the physicians of spring 2020 who harmed COVID-19 patients by putting them on ventilators (today we realize that most would have done better if they’d stayed home with an oxygen bottle), doctors in 1349 often made plague patients worse and certainly had no effective treatment to offer. As with the fanatical sanitizers of today, public health officials back then tried to stop the pandemic by cleaning up the filthy streets. Ultimately, just as with SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen killed nearly everyone that could be killed despite the best efforts of the doctors and officials.

Professor Doubleday relates that the lack of effective remedies did not reduce public confidence in the experts. In fact, physicians made more money, officials got more power, and both classes of health experts got more prestige even as 50 percent of the population was being felled by Yersinia pestis.

In common with other scholars, Professor Doubleday relates that the reduction in population resulted in a tremendous increase in wages for the survivors (see Immigration is the Reverse Black Death?) due to the reduced supply of labor.

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Happy Patriots’ Day

If you’re in Boston enjoying healing legal cannabis today, you can thank the traitors who rebelled against legitimate British rule in 1775 (marijuana is strictly illegal in the U.K.).

How did George III see the “patriots”? The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III (Andrew Roberts) quotes the King writing in 1782:

I cannot conclude without mentioning how sensibly* I feel the dismemberment of America from this empire, and that I should feel miserable indeed if I did not feel that no blame on that account can be laid at my door, and did not also know that knavery seems to be so much the striking feature of its inhabitants that it may not in the end be an evil that they become aliens to this kingdom.

Good riddance to bad traitors, in other words!

Just 15 years before the Revolutionary War started, folks in Boston loved George III.

The widespread celebrations of George’s accession [in 1760] were particularly strong in Boston, capital of the King’s loyal Massachusetts Bay Colony. As the proclamation was read in which Boston acknowledged ‘all faith and constant obedience’ to the new King ‘with all hearty and humble affection’, the crowd shouted ‘Huzzah!’, militiamen fired three volleys, cannon from the harbour fort boomed and the town was illuminated in the traditional celebratory manner by placing candles in the windows of houses. The exertions Britain was making in blood and treasure to protect her American imperial brethren from incursions over the previous six years of what was then known as the French and Indian War were greatly appreciated. ‘I have been here about sixteen years,’ a Bostonian noted, ‘and I don’t know of one single man but would risk his life and property to serve King George the Third.’

Aside from marijuana laws, how has the U.S. diverged from the U.K. since 1775?

The U.S. has borrowed much more, as a percentage of GDP, than the British. What did George III have to say about that?

In one respect, however, George was not exaggerating: Britain’s ‘present load of debts’ amounted to over £74 million in 1753, to £77.8 million in 1758 and to £82.8 million in 1759, prompting a deep concern in Parliament over the nation’s creditworthiness, and reaffirming those fears in George that had been planted by Bute’s teachings and his father’s political testament. George wrote several essays on the subject in the second half of the 1750s, which in total covered no fewer than 557 pages. For the young Prince, revenue and expenditure profoundly affected national power and prosperity, and ‘to know this is the true essential business of a king’. The seriousness with which he and Bute approached this subject was no mere intellectual exercise; it was a blueprint for what they believed needed to be done about the economy once George became king and Bute his Prime Minister.

George’s conception of economics was staunchly conservative. He dreamed not of conquering great territories such as Canada and India, but rather of redeeming the National Debt and leading a great, unleveraged trading nation which would be ‘the residence of true piety and virtue’. His essays articulate his belief that the establishment of the Debt, in the reign of William III and Mary, had emerged from the cowardice of politicians in borrowing for William’s wars rather than incurring unpopularity by increasing taxation, which he characterized as a willingness ‘to live and die without the least regard to posterity, a way of thinking now become fatally prevalent’. As he wrote elsewhere, ‘The world ever produces wrong-headed individuals who would rather pay £10 imperceptibly than £4 out of their pockets at once.’ If there was a specific period when George conceived his low opinion of politicians for their short-termism, factiousness and pusillanimity – a general view that was to last throughout his reign and cause him a good deal of trouble – it was when he studied in detail the way the National Debt had ballooned in the six decades after the 1690s.

George likened the Whig governments’ behaviour in allowing this to happen to ‘a young spendthrift who eagerly compounds for a present convenience at the expense of any future encumbrance, however burdensome or reproachful’. Economics, for George, was profoundly moral. He denounced the first national lottery, of 1694, as ‘a most pernicious precedent, too often made use of since, as it serves not only to excite, but even authorize, a spirit of gaming in every man who is able to raise a few pounds, though perhaps at the expense of his morals, credit and character’.

(regarding this last point against state-sponsored gambling, see also If inequality is bad, why does the government run Powerball?)

The British thought that Europeans had stolen enough land from the Native Americans. The Patriots disagreed.

On 7 October 1763, possibly in part as a result of the Cherokee embassy the previous year, the British government made a decision that was to become one of the major causes of the loss of the North American colonies. Severely rattled by the still-ongoing Pontiac uprising in the Ohio Valley, and conscious of the promises made to Native American tribes that had supported Britain in the Seven Years War, Lord Halifax (who for thirteen years had been First Lord of Trade and Plantations) issued a proclamation to prevent the American colonists’ westward settlement. The whole continent to the west of a Proclamation Line, running from the Great Lakes down to the Gulf of Mexico and along the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains, would be one gigantic Native American reserve where no American colonial settlement would be permitted. There was even an order for settlers then on the western side of the Line ‘forthwith to remove themselves’. This was a major obstacle to the expansion of American wealth and growth. Now, far from viewing the twenty battalions of British troops as being for their own protection, the colonists saw them as enforcing a new policy of boxing them into the seaboard colonies and preventing expansion from ocean to ocean.

George had distributed large silver friendship ‘peace medals’ to the chiefs of Native American allies and trading partners during the Seven Years War and was not willing to betray them. Yet the exponential population growth of the thirteen colonies meant that Americans were looking to move westwards across the continent. In the almost inevitable struggle between the American colonists and the Indigenous Nations on the other side of the Appalachians, Britain had attached herself to what would be the losing side for the short-term gain of the fur trade. It was now very much in American colonists’ interests that the taxes to pay for the British troops should not be raised, so that the Proclamation Line could not be policed. The first and most obvious losers from the Proclamation were those speculators who had intended to develop the land between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi, among whom were Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, the Lee family and George Washington. In September 1763, Washington and nine other speculators had launched the Mississippi Land Company, with the intention of claiming 2.5 million acres in the Ohio Valley, covering what is today Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee.

(See George Washington, Mules, and Donald Trump: “the author reminds us that real estate speculator-to-president is not an entirely new path”)

Slavery was a substantial difference between England and what became the U.S.

Forty-one of the fifty-six signatories to the Declaration owned slaves at one point in their lives, and Thomas Hutchinson wrote that he ‘could wish to ask the delegates of Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas how their constituents justify the depriving more than an hundred thousand Africans of their right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.

So… we fought for the rights to smoke dope, keep slaves, borrow and spend wildly, and steal land from the Native Americans.

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A young child killed by a new vaccine

Averros may find this of particular interest… The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III (Andrew Roberts):

On 20 August 1782, the King and Queen were devastated to lose their youngest son, ‘dear little Alfred’, who died at Windsor Castle shortly before his second birthday. He had been taken to Deal by the royal governess Lady Charlotte Finch in the hope that he would recover from a fever through fresh sea air and bathing, but to no avail. The Court did not go into formal mourning as Alfred was not fourteen, but the royal couple were utterly grief-stricken. The Queen gave Finch an amethyst and pearl locket, and a lock of blond hair from ‘my dear little Angel Alfred’. She wrote to her brother Charles two days after Alfred’s death, ‘I am very grateful to Providence, that out of a family of fourteen children, it has never struck us except in this one instance, and so I must submit myself without a murmur.’ The cause was probably too high a dosage of the smallpox inoculation. The King and Queen were staunch advocates of this treatment, which was spearheaded by Edward Jenner, although they believed that Providence still played a large part in medicine.

When Edward Jenner finally perfected his vaccination technique in the mid-1790s, the King knighted him and became patron of the Jennerian Society which advanced the practice. In his enlightened way he did not allow personal tragedy to affect his rational appreciation of the great benefits of science.

If the U.S. had not traitorously rebelled, Americans might have funded a lot more scientific research during the 19th century.

Early in 1751, Frederick and Augusta settled the twelve-year-old George and eleven-year-old Edward at Savile House, adjoining Leicester House. It was the Hanoverian practice to give princes their own establishments early, and Savile House, built in the 1680s, was to become George’s London home for the next nine years. His mini-Court there consisted of a governor, preceptor (responsible for teaching), sub-governor, sub-preceptor and treasurer, with part-time teachers for languages, fencing, dancing and riding brought in from outside. He studied algebra, geometry and trigonometry. He was the first British monarch to study science, being taught basic physics and chemistry by Scott. He was receiving a good, all-round, enlightened education.

(But maybe not, since the British never taxed anyone in North America to fund government operations in England. Any taxes raised in the 13 colonies were spent in the 13 colonies. On the third hand, a British-governed North America led by a scientifically educated king might have funded local research labs.)

And we might have been spared the partisan politics that are often decried.

Contrary to the Whig imperative of minimizing royal power, The Idea of a Patriot King argued that the role of a constitutionally limited hereditary monarchy was important. Bolingbroke fully accepted that such seventeenth-century notions as the Divine Right of Kings had ‘no foundation in fact or reason’, and he believed ‘a limited monarchy the best of governments’. The limits on the power of the Crown, he maintained, should be ‘carried as far as is necessary to secure the liberties of the people’ and enough to protect the people against an arrogant (by which he meant Old Whig) aristocracy. Bolingbroke’s patriot king would revere the constitution, regard his prerogatives as a sacred trust, ‘espouse no party’ and ‘govern like the common father of his people’. A key message of the book was that government by party inevitably resulted in a factionalism disastrous to the state. ‘Party is a political evil,’ Bolingbroke wrote, ‘and faction is the worst of all parties. The king will aim at ruling a united nation, and in order to govern wisely and successfully he will put himself at the head of his people,’ so that he can deliver them ‘tranquillity, wealth, power and fame’.

Circling back to the vaccine… the situation is not directly comparable, of course. George III and Queen Charlotte were trying to vaccinated their child against a disease that regularly killed children.

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A world-class military tries to subdue a vast land (England versus the American rebels)

Portions of The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III (Andrew Roberts) are, unfortunately, timely.

The American rebellion surprised the experts:

One of the reasons why British politicians failed to comprehend that Americans would soon be agitating for nationhood was the paradoxical one, considering the propaganda of the independence movement twelve years later, that they were not being persecuted in any discernible way. ‘The colonists were the least oppressed of all peoples then on earth, politically, economically and nationally,’ noted Hans Kohn in his seminal book The Idea of Nationalism in 1944, written when half the world knew genuine oppression. ‘Politically the colonists were infinitely freer than any people on the European continent; they were even freer than Englishmen in Great Britain. The favourable conditions of frontier life had brought Milton’s and Locke’s teachings and English constitutional liberties to faster and fuller fruition in the colonies than in the mother country.’19 Royal governors and colonial assemblies generally ruled Americans with the lightest of touches, and the colonists certainly paid the lightest of taxes in the empire. The average American in 1770 paid a tiny fraction of what his British cousin paid in direct taxes, and crucially all of what he did pay stayed in America.

In the words of Edmund Burke’s biographer, ‘The general belief was that responsible people in the colonies accepted British sovereignty; that the disturbances in America were the work of a small minority of trouble-makers; and that American resistance would collapse if confronted with a show of force. If a war proved necessary, Britain would win it quickly and easily. Not until Appeasement in the 1930s did virtually the entire British establishment get something so important so badly wrong.

The British Army was tasked with domestic policing as well as wars with foreign nations because there was no permanent police force in England until 1829. The number of soldiers was miniscule by modern standards:

In 1775 there were only 48,000 men in the entire British Army, including the 8,000 already stationed in North America, which with its other global commitments would be nothing like enough to subdue the 2.5 million inhabitants of thirteen colonies that stretched over a thousand miles from north to south and several hundred miles inland.

In the summer of 1775, the British Army had 10,000 men already in America (mostly in or around Boston) and Canada, or sailing there; 7,700 in Gibraltar, Minorca and the West Indies; 7,000 in Ireland, which at half its normal peacetime establishment was dangerously low; and the remaining 23,000 in the United Kingdom, the minimum number for defence and domestic control, of whom 1,500 were unfit for duty.

The Cabinet continued to suffer under the delusion that the British Army and Royal Navy that had defeated France (with her population of more than twenty-five million) and Spain (nine million) only a decade earlier, and won a great empire in Canada and India, would, if necessary, similarly destroy the untrained and semi-organized militias of far fewer Americans. The crucial difference was of course that Britain had not needed to invade and occupy France or Spain in order to be victorious in 1763.

What were these professional soldiers up against?

As well as their proficiency with firearms, the Americans also had the advantage of numbers. According to Benjamin Franklin’s calculation in 1766, if a quarter of the remaining male population bore arms, and Loyalists, pacifists and seamen were deducted, about a quarter of a million Americans could theoretically fight against the Crown.

Supplying troops in the field wasn’t any easier then:

The logistical supply problem was immense too: because the local population tended to be hostile – with the American Loyalists providing far fewer troops than the British government had hoped for and expected – food had to be either foraged (that is, requisitioned, with all the local unpopularity that entailed) or bought (routinely at high margins), or else transported 3,000 miles over an ocean that was vulnerable to storms, colonial privateers and, later, enemy navies. Once the British armies penetrated inland, their lack of knowledge of the interior and the inescapable problems of reinforcement and supply both told against them heavily.

I recommend The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III, but you might want to skim over some of the exhaustive/exhausting explanations of 18th century English politics (at least as complex as anything we have today and political disputes quite often resulted in violent clashes).

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