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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 20. Settling the Succession at the Treasury: March–April 1763


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Bute did not expect that peace would make his office easier to bear. Eager to spare himself the continuation of what had been for months an excruciating ordeal, he asked the king’s permission to retire from public life soon after the parliamentary debates on the preliminary treaty. Determined to prevent this, the king resorted to his tried and true tactic: appeals to personal loyalty to him and political duty to pursue attacks on corruption and the process of reconciling of security and economy. “Our work is but half done,” he told Bute. This tactic had only limited success. George III reluctantly recognized that the strains Bute labored under were endangering his health, and the two men agreed to define “work” as the signing of the Definitive Treaty. This kept Bute at his post in the Treasury, but it did not improve his mood, much less change his mind. Certain in January that “the Angel Gabriel could not at present govern this country, but by methods too long practiced and such as my soul abhors,” he stuck by his decision, “tho’ in the bosom of victory.” By March, the Definitive Treaty was signed, and it was clear his departure would be only a matter of days. Bute began the process of choosing a successor.1

He continued to profess that what forced him out were concerns about his health and the moral...

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