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It will be a disappointment to my Philadelphia friends to find I have been forced by time to omit the details of their favorite dinner table conversation, the British occupation of Philadelphia and all its wonderful details. But a summary is that Washington lost just about every battle, but won the war of attrition. His job was to keep the Continental Army alive at Valley Forge during the Howe brothers assault, until subordinate Generals in other regions had better but similar luck, for eight years. The French assistance grew, and finally, the greatest war machine in the world just gave up and concentrated on the rest of the earth. America may have been an attractive place to conquer, but it was just too expensive.
The story includes Ben Franklin's social conquest of France, to the point of essentially bankrupting his ally. It includes the skillful British attack on Philadelphia's back door through Delaware, the majestic land victory then defeat, then victory and then defeat of Lord Cornwallis across the waist of New Jersey, the battle of Trenton and return to Washington's cold winter retreat in Morristown. It has all of the juicy details of betrayal by Benedict Arnold and Philadelphia's social elite. And it includes the details of Robert Morris, who was essentially acting President while the politicians fled to York and Lancaster, taking the Liberty Bell along with them. It includes Betsy Ross and the other common folk who survived while they subverted their conquerors. It is a grand story, but there just isn't time to tell it. It might even mention gunpowder smuggling to the battle of Trenton by The Barber of Seville, Beaumarchais the French King's watchmaker. Mozart and Beethoven and Poor Richard's French girlfriends also figure, but there just isn't time to invent a pretext for mentioning them, so we return to the Constitution and how it got to be what it is.
Originally published: Wednesday, August 28, 2019; most-recently modified: Thursday, August 29, 2019