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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 12. One Million or Two?: The Vote of Credit Controversy, April–May 1762


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· 12 ·


Newcastle pinned all his hopes on peace in 1762. If the war dragged on into 1763, he was certain the result would be national ruin. Naturally, he would have preferred that France would meet Britain more than halfway during negotiations, but he trusted less in the enemy’s eagerness for peace than he did in the still overwhelming power of his country’s finances and his own persuasiveness. He expected he could keep Bute reassured that the nation had sufficient fiscal resources to fight successfully in every theater during the rest of 1762. Despite the new costs of helping Portugal against Spain and attacking Spanish possessions in America and Asia, despite the swelling charges in Germany, despite the paying of a subsidy to Prussia, it could be done. The Treasury, he would continuously emphasize to the king’s friend, could weather all storms that might this year arise along the way. Finally, Newcastle planned to use these multiplying burdens to convince Bute it was imperative to make peace during 1762. One year was bearable; two years would be too much.

To make sure Britain could support the war in 1762, Newcastle briefly considered in February recommending the ministers request a vote of credit of £2,000,000. No detailed examination of past expenditures or judicious projection of future demands caused the duke to settle on this figure. Most likely he...

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