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Prelude to Disaster

George III and the Origins of the American Revolution, 1751–1763

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John L. Bullion

Prelude to Disaster is the most comprehensive account of the fateful decision to tax American colonists. Unlike other studies, it emphasizes the central role of the young George III in the process. Central to this examination are George’s principles of statecraft and government, his thoughts on pre- and post-war empires, his assessments of future relations with Britain’s great antagonist France, his personality and its development before and after his accession to the throne, his friendship with the earl of Bute, and his attitudes toward domestic policies and politicians, especially George Grenville.

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Chapter 9. Pitt’s War: August–October 1761

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PITT’S WAR, AUGUST–OCTOBER 1761

By mid-August 1761, disputes over the fisheries and Canada had frayed the consensus the cabinet had enjoyed in 1759 and 1760. The arguments had troubling consequences. Some were diplomatic. Bute and his colleagues could not gauge the impact the delays caused by cabinet debates would have on the French. Would Choiseul see them as signs of weakness compounded by war weariness, and be encouraged to fight on? Would the French seize the chance to woo Spain into a military alliance? Another threat was internal. Would the ministry survive? More to the point, should it survive?

Frustrated by the wrangling, disappointed by what he saw as the disappearance of a chance for peace in 1761, the duke of Bedford stopped attending meetings. He told Newcastle they wasted his time, since peace could never be made so long as William Pitt stayed in office. This distressed Newcastle, who wondered if peace could be made without the voice and vote of its most persistent advocate in the cabinet.

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