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Prelude to Disaster

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


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 11. “The unerring evidence of figures”: October 1761–March 1762


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· 11 ·


While Grenville adjusted to being Leader, he took up another task, one well suited to his talents, interests, and connections. Drawing on data supplied by friends at the Treasury, he began guiding Bute and George III through the intricacies of paying for a year of war. “the unerring evidence of figures”

The beer tax of 1760 had been the start of the king’s post-Kew education. It had introduced him to the details of planning and executing taxes, in 1761, he and Bute had begun learning the challenges of diplomatic politics by doing it during cabinet debates and observing it as practiced by the duc de Choiseul. A recurrent theme of these months had been almost ritualistic reminders of the strains the war was tightening on Britain’s finances. Thanks to Newcastle’s close hold on details, expressions of concern had been confined to generalities. Now on tap for George III and Bute were advanced seminars in the finding, funding, disbursement, and manipulation of the cash in the Exchequer for current expenditures during a fiscal year. Bute was as much a novice at this as George, so the instructor at Kew in the 1750s became a pupil in 1762. Their principal teachers were Grenville and Samuel Martin, Secretary of the Treasury. Aside from the details the two instructors introduced them to, the most important lesson they took away from them was that present...

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