Samantha Callaghan, Metadata Analyst, King’s Digital Laboratory, and Arthur Burns, Academic Director, Georgian Papers Programme, King’s College London
All those involved in the Georgian Papers Programme would like to send all visitors to our websites, the scholars associated with the programme as fellows, and the King’s Friends season’s greetings and wish them all the best for 2018, which promises to be an exciting year for the Programme.
As it happens, we have a splendidly seasonal GPP post to share with you! Christmas and the Georgian Papers Programme were recently invoked in an article on the College of William and Mary website which discussed how Elizabeth Losh, an Associate Professor at the College and her husband, Mel Horan, who live within Colonial Williamsburg used the Georgian Papers Programme as inspiration for their Christmas wreaths this year. Christmas is a popular time to visit the historical attraction, and tours of the decorated homes are on offer. You can read all about it here, but we can also share additional pictures of the wonderful wreaths on this page.
In relation to the Georgian Papers themselves, a quick search of the material on Georgian Papers Online shows, at present, a small number of letters, papers and menu books that refer to Christmas. In particular there is one letter from Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) to Prince William (1765-1837, later William IV), dated 30 December 1782, in which she writes, ‘We are at present again at Windsor, the Xmas Holiday’s have been spent here in as chearfull a manner as possible as our Small Company would admit of ‘. Prince William was, at that time, serving in the Royal Navy under Lord Samuel Hood near the colonies of North America and the Caribbean.
Queen Charlotte goes on, as perhaps any aristocratic mother would to a son in the Royal Navy at that time, though rather lacking in seasonal cheer and goodwill, ‘Above all things do I beseech You William do not become a libertine that Character will neither become nor prosper You … therefore beware of every Step You take dont be ashamed of doingright, but always fearful of doing wrong. which if You remember will greatly contribute to the happiness of your Affectionate Mother.’
By Flora Fraser, GPP Fellow, Researcher and Author
Memories of past years I spent researching books in the Royal Archives are crystal clear. I first went in autumn, just before the end of October 1988, when I was to be thirty. I was awed to be climbing the many stone steps inside William the Conqueror’s Round Tower at Windsor Castle, where the archives are housed. Generations of Royal biographers I admired – James Pope-Hennessy and indeed my grandmother, Elizabeth Longford – had preceded me.
In order to research a biography of Queen Caroline, George IV’s wife. I had been granted a term in the Archives of six months. In the event, I took rather longer to make sense of all twenty-nine boxes of the Queen’s papers. The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline was ultimately published in 1996. By that time I was already hard at work once more in the Archives. Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III – and of Queen Charlotte – was published in 2004.
My next biographies – Venus of Empire: A Life of Pauline Bonaparte (2009) and The Washingtons: George & Martha (2015) – led me, first, across the Channel and, then, across the Atlantic. But my affection for the Georgian and other Papers in the Royal Archives was undimmed. I browsed with pleasure Queen Victoria’s digitized journal, when it went live on the Royal Collection website in 2012, to mark our Queen s Golden Jubilee. And there are a few electrifying moments in one’s research and writing career. One such was when I learnt last autumn of the Georgian Papers Project, and of the imaginative partnering of the Royal Archives with King’s College, London, and, in the US, with the Omohundro Institute, the Library of Congress, the Sons of the American Revolution, and Mount Vernon.
When I was writing about George and Martha Washington’s marriage, I consulted the PGWDE – the digital edition of the first American President’s papers and the brainchild of Mount Vernon and the University of Virginia – remotely and daily in London for six years. So I appreciate just what a treasure trove – a bonanza! – digitized papers, copiously and expertly annotated, can be for a biographer. And now there is the Georgian Papers Project – a new bonanza for authors, academics, and the world beyond. Avenues of study and exploration online will multiply as the Project proceeds. I was delighted, early this year, to be chosen as the 2017 Mount Vernon Georgian Papers Fellow to research, the Royal Archives and in archives in the US, two book projects: a life of Flora Macdonald, the Scottish heroine who later emigrated to North Carolina and became caught up in the American Revolution; and a life of Nelson on shore and at sea.
For my biography of Flora Macdonald, I explored, at Windsor, the Stuart Papers and the Cumberland Papers. The former are the – largely 18thC – papers of the exiled House of Stuart, including those of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, Charles Edward Stuart. In the summer of 1746, having failed with a rebel army, including many Highland Scots, to restore the Stuart monarchy, the Prince was in hiding from Hanoverian troops in Hebridean islands off the west coast of Scotland. Flora, a young local girl, was of vital aid to Charles Edward in South Uist and Skye. The latter are the military papers of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, second son of George II, who was commander-in-chief in Scotland and directing the search for the Prince. I found rich pickings in both Stuart and Cumberland Papers for Flora’s heady week with the Prince in the Hebrides and for her subsequent capture and transportation to London for trial.
For my future biography of Nelson, meanwhile, I looked at a variety of papers in the Royal Archives. Some date from the Revolutionary War in America, where he served as a young naval officer. He provided advice and a degree of companionship to Prince William, later Duke of Clarence and William IV, during that young man’s brief career at sea. Others emanate from the Napoleonic Wars, in which conflict, as a much decorated admiral, Nelson died, victorious, in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Many in the Royal Archives helped to make my research there so productive this May and June. Dr Oliver Walton corresponded with me helpfully in advance of my visit, answered further queries speedily, and gave interesting advice on the Georgian navy. Allison Derrett, an old friend in the Archives, was always ready to share expert advice. Roberta Giubilini, having worked on the Stuart and Cumberland Papers and being at work on the William IV papers, was interested in my two projects and a mine of information about specific boxes. Moreover, the bookshelves in the researchers’ room hold many useful books and published correspondence relevant to Georgian and later Royal history, which I consulted frequently. I am grateful, besides, to all those members of the Archives who hefted into the researchers’ room hundreds of volumes of Stuart Papers and many boxes of Cumberland Papers boxes. Last but not least, I owe much to Lynnette Beech, who kindly scanned documents for me, when I wanted more than pencilled notes and memory to recall them to mind.
May and June 2017 saw extremes of British weather and a stormy General Election. Closeted up in the sky, I never switched my mobile on and generally caught up with the day’s news on the train back to London. But some news permeated the Round Tower’s thick walls. These months also saw extremist attacks in Manchester and London. We stood for an inadequate but sincere minute’s silence twice in two months in the Archives.
Windsor Castle is an idiosyncratic place. A Governor, Poor Knights and the clergy of St George’s Chapel, besides the Royal Family, are just some of its many residents. This has been the case since the days of George III and Queen Charlotte and of many earlier monarchs. The unchanging nature of much about Windsor has its effect. As I walked to up through the Castle to the Archives this summer, I sometimes felt as if I were my younger self and researching there thirty years ago. Up, as ever, I strolled from Henry VIII Gate, and through Lower Ward, looking idly at the Round Tower on the skyline ahead to see if the Queen was in residence. When Court is at Windsor, the Royal standard flies, yellow and red lions streaming in the wind. Up again, as ever, I proceeded, past the Moat Garden, beautifully planted, and now my pace quickened. The door at the base of the Round Tower gives onto that steep ascent inside to the Archives and to WORK. The same impetus to have at the papers made me bound up the steps this summer with quite as much energy as in 1988.
There is the odd diversion in the Archives not usually to be had in muniment rooms, and new to me, since a renovation of the Archives, and change in function of several rooms there. When Court is at Windsor a band marches midmorning into Upper Ward, to serenade the monarch. The music floats crystal clear up to the new researchers’ room in the Round Tower. ‘Not Coldplay again …’, one of our number muttered absent-mindedly on one occasion. Another researcher looked up and said, ‘The Queen likes them. Prince Harry got her into them’.
Apart from these occasional musical intervals, the quiet of the large researchers’ room is little disturbed. In company with others, I leafed through boxes of papers, squinted at handwriting, and transcribed letters in part or in full. Some pecked at computers. Others, like I, were pencil and paper devotees. Once the Lord Chamberlain came in unexpectedly to enquire about the scope of our research. Returning from the depths of the mid 18th c, I attempted and failed to give a coherent answer.
I was fortunate enough to be in the Archives also when Dr Carla Hayden, the new Librarian of Congress, and some of her colleagues visited from DC. I consulted the Library’s digital collections at loc.gov extensively when writing about the Washingtons, and the new partnership between the Royal Archives and the Library is exciting to contemplate. Additionally Dr Hayden told me about a Georgian show in contemplation at the Library. She suggested that, when I was on my Fellowship at Mount Vernon in October, I should talk to the exhibition team. Atlantic Studies, rule OK!
I am grateful to many who offered me help before, during and after my time in the Archives. Bruce Ragsdale, my distinguished predecessor as Mount Vernon Georgian Papers Fellow, offered sound practical advice about working at the Royal Archives. Doug Bradburn and Stephen McLeod, Founding Director and Director of Library programs at the George Washington Library, Mount Vernon, respectively, were strong in support. Arthur Burns at King’s and Karin Wulf at the Omohundro are inspiring and enthusiastic academic leaders. Who, besides, would not enjoy discussing Nelson with Laughton Professor of Naval History, Andrew Lambert, as I did, when presenting research at King’s in June?
Most of all, I love the cross-disciplinary connections that are growing up around the GPP. Together, Fellows and institutions from both sides of the Atlantic are considering 18th c politics, warfare, agriculture, trade, material culture and much else. I lose track, besides, of the number of cups of tea and drinks and meals I have shared with new friends made, since I became a Georgian Papers Fellow.
My two months at the Royal Archives this summer are still inchoate and unprocessed. No doubt with time the narrative will sharpen. However, even at this stage, I am aware that my research at Windsor has fleshed out greatly for me the part Flora Macdonald played in the Forty-Five. In the case of Nelson, the Georgian papers have made me think hard about both his character and his social standing at different times of his truncated life. But that’s for the future. Now to write Flora! Or even, now to write, Flora …
The ‘America is Lost!’ piece was a short essay written by George III reviewing the causes and effects of the American Revolution. It potentially provides a fascinating insight into the thoughts of King George about the future of the British Empire after the loss of America; however, researchers need to be cautious about how they approach the essay. The words of the essay substantively replicate a published essay by Arthur Young, a leading British agricultural theorist who shared George’s passion for improving farming techniques. Therefore, before analysing the language of the piece, we must first determine why Young’s words appear in the handwriting of the King.
There are two likely explanations for this situation. In one case, Young may have shared with George an earlier draft that the King copied and possibly amended. The second explanation is that George copied Young’s published essay then adapted the words in order to help him make sense of them, a conventional eighteenth-century process for learning called commonplacing. Each scenario prompts a slightly different interpretation of how the words reflect George’s thoughts on the British Empire. If the first scenario proves to be the most likely explanation then it suggests George may have corresponded with Young about his ideas in ways that have been overlooked until now. If the second scenario proves more plausible, then George’s editorial changes may indicate how the King imagined the future of the British Empire. To answer the question fully, researchers will need to work through the material emerging out of the Georgian Papers Programme. We will need to understand the relationship between George and Young better, especially to look for letters between the men discussing this or other drafts. It is also important to think about the essay in the context of other pieces emerging from the archive to understand how George used essays and notes to make sense of the world around him. Whatever the outcome, further study into the King’s essays promises to reveal something about George and his thoughts on the British Empire.
My own conclusion about the ‘America is Lost!’ piece is that George copied and edited the words of Young’s published essay. Commonplacing was a common occurrence and there are other examples in the archive where the words of published texts appear in George’s hand. By copying and revising Young’s published essay, the King’s editorial decisions can provide insights into his thoughts on the British Empire, even though the words were not his. George was very selective about the passages he copied from Young. Young’s essay was seventy-eight printed pages and George’s essay was just over three handwritten pages. This act of condensing the original was an intellectual process that merits attention. Moreover, though George generally copied Young’s words verbatim, there are significant omissions and rephrasing that suggest George edited the essay to suit his own needs. George’s version of ‘America is Lost!’ actually stands up as an essay in its own right. It is not clear where George has deleted or adapted passages in Young, nor does the King indicate that he is quoting from another source. Ultimately, George changed Young’s argument by abridging it, converting Young’s pessimistic forecast about the British Empire into something more optimistic. The key difference between the two versions is that Young argued for agricultural development in Britain by emphasising the inevitability of colonial rebellion, in America as well as in Canada and India; whereas, George deleted these passages to concentrate on Young’s assessment of the American Revolution and the need to preserve, rather than increase, the territories of the British Empire.
The essay George copied from Young was the first essay in the first volume of Young’s influential Annals of Agriculture. Young argued that Britons could create immense wealth by cultivating the wastelands throughout Britain by using the best agricultural practices. In effect, the essay justified the need for Annals as a journal for sharing agricultural research. As part of his argument, Young claimed that the money Britain spent on developing lands in the colonies would have been better spent on improving British lands. Not only would the investment have contributed greatly to the national income, but as demonstrated by the American Revolution, the dividends from investing in British lands were also more secure than colonial improvements. Young distinguished between the southern and northern colonies. The southern and Caribbean colonies contributed toward the British national income by trading sugar, tobacco, and rice, commodities that could not be grown in Britain. The northern colonies—Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts—had long been trade rivals rather than colonies. In fact, Young asserted the northern colonies were more valuable as trading partners. Young argued that unless a colony produced cash crops, like tobacco or sugar, then they were only useful as commercial partners. Significantly, he believed that this trading relationship worked to dissolve the imperial relationship. He applied this same logic to the rest of the Empire. He believed that the Indians would throw out the rapacious and corrupt East India Company to the detriment of Britain generally. He also argued that Canada would either remain a poor colony and therefore useless to Britain, or it would grow rich and eventually revolt against the crown. Young believed the most secure form of wealth was to make British agriculture as efficient as possible by experimenting with enlightened farming methods. The message of Young’s essay was that after American independence, Britain needed to militate against the loss of the remaining colonies by improving British land.
George made a number of subtle editorial changes to Young’s piece that significantly altered the essay’s argument. Firstly, George rephrased and removed passages in Young that exaggerated the differences between British and colonial people. For example, George often moderated Young’s language, such as when Young wrote: ‘The wars of 1744, 1756, and 1775 were all entered into, because the beggars, fanaticks, felons, and madmen of the kingdom, had been encouraged in their speculation of settling the wilds of North America.’ George wrote instead: ‘The wars of 1744, 1756, and 1775 were all entered into from the encouragement given the speculation of settling the wilds of North America.’ The King kept Young’s argument that land speculation in America had prompted war, but removed the incendiary idea that it was the felons and undesirables of Britain that created the land speculation. Furthermore, throughout the original essay, Young discussed his participation in longstanding public debates about the profitability of the colonies to Britain. Young condemned rival British commentators who had argued that the colonies were the source of Britain’s wealth. He claimed these commentators had ‘deceived’ Britain and ‘mislead themselves’. George removed the references to these debates. Likewise, George did not copy out the citations and footnotes Young used to argue that revenue generated within Britain contributed more to the national income than the contributions from colonies. George avoided explicitly endorsing Young’s argument by deleting these segments. For Young, disproving the commonly held belief of colonial profitability was crucial to his argument for investing in British wastelands, but George’s deletions imply he did not wholly agree with Young that national wealth rested on the domestic British economy. Young accentuated the differences between Britain and its colonies, while George seemed to resist the distinction. Taken together, these changes suggest that while Young predicted the end of Empire, George was more optimistic.
This more sanguine view of Empire is evident in the final paragraphs of George’s essay. The King condensed a three-page section from the original into a short conclusion that reframed Young’s argument about a declining British Empire. Over the three pages, Young described how he foresaw the end of Britain’s relationship with its colonies. He argued that though the Caribbean islands and India added to the fortunes of the Empire in a way the northern colonies never had, the ‘East and West Indies’ were both destined to split away from Britain. A naval alliance between the newly independent US and France would make British occupation of the Caribbean islands untenable, and in India, Young said the East India Company’s abhorrent behaviour in the region would mean ‘one day must come. — It ought to come’ when they would throw off British authority. Finally, though the 1783 Peace of Paris that ended the war preserved Canada as a British colony, for Young, it was so poor as to be worthless. He continued that as soon as Canada became economically profitable it would revolt like the other American colonies. Ultimately, Young argued the British Empire was doomed because the internal strength of the colonies was insufficient to keep them British and only the Royal Navy could keep them within the Empire.
Rather than building a bigger navy, Young believed that British colonial policy should aim at preserving rather than increasing the Empire. The implication was that Britain would effectively turn inward and use colonial profits to grow the domestic economy until the remaining imperial outposts eventually became independent. In the following sixty-seven pages of the original essay, Young discussed the advantages and profits of developing Britain’s agriculture. However, George stopped copying Young at the idea of preserving the Empire. Moreover in the concluding paragraph of George’s essay, the King significantly rephrased Young. Compare the original with George’s editing:
That they are insecure no man can be hardy enough [George: ‘No man can be hardy enough to deny that they are insecure’]: to add therefore to their value by exertions of policy that shall have the effect of directing any stream of capital, industry, or population into those channels, would be to add to a disproportion already an evil. The more we are convinced of the vast importance of these territories, the more we must feel the insecurity of our power. If they were of such a magnitude as to be essential to our political existence, it would be no paradox to assert, that the misfortune would be yet greater. Our view therefore out not to be to increase but preservation [George: ‘our view therefore out not to be to increase but preserve them.’]
The first and last sentences reflect George’s preference to simplify Young’s phrasing without substantially changing the meaning. However, the deleted sentence changes the tone of the conclusion. Both Young and George agreed that investment in the colonies was insecure and the bigger the colony then the more insecure the investment. Young stressed this point to say that if the colonies were essential to Britain then its political existence was under threat. Yet Young inferred that the colonies were not essential to Britain’s political existence and therefore colonial policy should not be about expansion and the exertions of capital, industry, and population should be directed inward within Britain. By removing Young’s conditional sentence, George implied that the colonial policy should be about preserving rather than increasing the Empire. As such, George’s essay becomes a reflection on how to preserve the Empire after the loss of America by changing the British approach to Empire.
The original essay proposed that Britain should turn inward away from the Empire. By contrast, while George used most of Young’s words and agreed with his assessment of the Revolution, the King arrived at a different conclusion. Young foresaw the end of the British Empire, but George largely edited out this pessimism to leave behind a more constructive essay about the causes of the Revolution and the solutions to preserving the colonies. In answer to the opening questions, after the loss of America Britain had to improve its use of resources to ‘repair the mischief’ and preserve the Empire. Ultimately, this short commentary on the ‘America is Lost!’ essay is a suggestive conclusion from looking at just one text. There are still many more items in the Royal Archives to identify, analyse, and evaluate. In isolation, the essay prompts many interesting questions that are central to understanding the King’s attitude to the loss of the American colonies. I look forward over the next years to returning and digesting this material still further. Particularly, I want to study whether the King had a consistent editorial style. Perhaps by analysing the other essays then we can discern recurrent themes or preferred modes of expression. Perhaps the King generally avoided disputes between authors. Perhaps he disdained to copy out inflammatory or divisive language. Editing is a creative process just like writing. It is a series of meaningful decisions that demonstrate an editor’s purposeful engagement with the ideas in the text. King George seems to have been an avid copyist, and I believe his editorial style can provide new insights into his private reflections and a broader context to his correspondence.
Transcription provided is the raw transcription, initial product of student transcribers. Text is not corrected nor proofed.
America is lost! Must we fall beneath the blow? Or have we resources that may repair the mischiefs? What are those resources? Should they be sought in distant Regions held by precarious Tenure, or shall we seek them at home in the exertions of a new policy?
The situation of the Kingdom is novel, the policy that is to govern it must be novel likewise, or neither adapted to the real evils of the present moment, or the dreaded ones of the future.
For a Century past the Colonial Scheme has been the system that has guided the Administration of the British Government. It was thoroughly known that from every Country there always exists an active emigration of unsettled, discontented, or unfortunate People who failing in their endeavours to live at home, hope to succeed better where there is more employment suitable to their poverty. The establishment of Colonies in America might probably increase the number of this class, but did not create it; in times anterior to that great speculation, Poland contained near 10.000 Scotch Pedlars; within the last thirty years not above 100. occasioned by America offering a more advantageous asylum for them.
A people spread over an immense tract of fertile land, industrious because free, and rich because industrious, presently became a market for the Manufactures and Commerce of the Mother Country. An importance was soon generated, which from its origin to the late conflict was mischievous to Britain, because it created an expence of blood and
and treasure worth more at this instant if it could be at our command, than all we ever received from America. The wars of 1744. of 1756. and 1775. were all entered into from the encouragements given to the speculations of settling the wilds of North America.
It is to be hoped that by degrees it will be admitted that the Northern Colonies, that is those North of Tobacco were in reality our very successful rivals in two Articles the carrying freight trade, and the Newfoundland fishery. While the Sugar Colonies added above three millions a year to the wealth of Britain, the Rice Colonies near a million and the Tobacco ones almost as much; those more to the north, so far from adding any thing to our wealth as Colonies, were trading, fishing, farming Countries, that rivalled us in many branches of our industry, and had actually deprived us of no inconsiderable share of the wealth we reaped by means of the others. This compartative view of our former territories in America is not stated with any idea of lessening the consequence of a future friendship and connection with them; on the contrary it is to be hoped we shall reap more advantages from their trade as friends than ever we could derive from them as Colonies; for there is reason to suppose we actually gained more by them while in actual rebellion, and the common open connection cut off them
than when they were in obedience to the Crown; the Newfoundland fishery taken into Account, there is little doubt of it.
The East and West Indies are conceived to be the great commercial supports of the Empire; as to the Newfoundland fishery time must tell us what share we shall reserve of it. But there is one observation which is applicable to all three; they depend on very distant territorial possessions, which we have little or no hopes of retaining from this internal strength, we can keep them only by means of a superior Navy. If our marine force sinks, or if in consequence of wars, debts, and taxes, we should in future find ourselves so debilitated as to be involved in a new War, without the means of carrying it on with vigour, in these cases, all distant possessions must fall let them be as valuable as their warmest panegyrists contend.
It evidently appears from this slight review of our most important dependencies, that on them we are not to exert that new policy which alone can be the preservation of the British power and consequence. The more important they are already, the less are they fit instruments in that work. No man can be hardy enough to deny that they are insecure, to add therefore to their value by exertions of policy which shall have the effect of directing any stream of capital, industry, or population into those channels, would be
be to add to a disproportion already an evil. The more we are convinced of the vast importance of those territories, the more we must feel the insecurity of our power; our view therefore ought not to be to increase but preserve them.