THE ESSAY THAT WON THE PRIZE

Margaret Gwynette Mitchell (1892 b. , Macon, Missouri to 1933) was the daughter of Robert Gwyn Mitchell and Lena Bell Carhart. Later she married Warner B. Hagan.

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THE ESSAY THAT WON THE PRIZE

Why the Americans were Victorious in the Revolution

Last year Miss Louise BROCK won the Ann Helm chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution essay. On Tuesday evening the prize at the second annual contest was awarded to Miss Gwynette MITCHELL. Her theme was “Why the Americans Were Victorious in the Revolution.” She wrote as follows:

Among the many historic arts and political deliverances there is probably none more eighty in significance and results, none more famous in the annals of the world than the war of the American Revolution; and we who can now call ourselves Americans, refer with a great deal of interest to the reasons for the success of our forefathers.

The story of the Revolution is not a beautiful one, but it is one, the issues of which, even today, greatly affect this American commonwealth; for nations, like individuals must be governed by justice. As Theodore Parker beautifully says “Justice is the keynote of the world and all else is out of time.”

In the story of the war for independence, there are two things that equally surprise the reader–first, that the Britain should ever have deemed it possible to subdue their revolting colonies; and second, that having attempted it, they should fail.

The American colonies were separated from the mother country by almost three thousand miles of sea, and as England’s navy had been impoverished during the Seven Year’s War, it was difficult for her to provide transportation for her troops. The colonies too, possessed one thousand miles of seaboard with many fine ports, and the possibilities of the unexplored regions were many. England with her naval power might destroy their commerce, attack their seaports and deprive them of many of the luxuries of life but she could strike no vital blow.

During the long wars with the French and Indians the colonists had been subject to the most severe privations and had undergone many hardships, but these only served to make more firm their already noble characters and to awaken in their breasts the determination to free their country from oppression and to leave to their sons that most enviable inheritance which they themselves had so long desired–a country in which all might be born equal and where justice should prevail.

To anyone who judged the question from an unprejudiced standpoint, it was evident that should the colonies resolve to sever their connections with her mother country, it would be useless to resist. England at the beginning of the war underestimated the force of the movement but she was soon to learn the firmness and resolution with which she must contend.

Popular feeling in England against the seeming useless expense of keeping a large standing army and navy had caused these to be much reduced. This condition forced them to hire large troops and to depend on them for a great deal of their strength; so the government bargained with some German princes for the sale of their subjects and a large number of unhappy Germans were sent like so many slaves to aid George III in conquering the Americans. Could these indifferent forces expect to cope with a people rising as one man to advance a noble cause? It did not occur to Great Britain that she was trying to crush true English spirit with her mercenary troops.

Lord Carlisle, speaking of the great scale of all things in America, said, “We have nothing on a great scale with us but our blunders, our misconducts, our ruin, our losses, our disgraces and misfortunes.” One of these great “blunders” was the idea that the spirit of the American colonists could be quelled by mercenary troops; for thousands of colonists who had hitherto hesitated about consenting to independence now decided it to be necessary; tens of thousands who had doubled the advisability of accepting aid from France were now convinced of the necessity of the policy. The king had called the Germans to his aid; why should the colonists not accept the aid proffered them by their old enemies, the French? So it was argued and an alliance was formed. Spain and Holland, following the example of France, offered aid which was accepted.

England now realized the real significance of the rebellion, but her strength was averted by the dangerous European wars. Her old enemies, France, Spain and Holland had joined the war against her and she was again having trouble over her colonies in India. Instead of being merely a war for the possession of thirteen unruly colonies it had become a struggle for the preservation of her whole empire. Had the Revolution been merely a contest between England and America it would doubtless have been a temporary failure for the Americans, but England was not prepared to contest with a league of the strongest European powers.

The English claimed that their failure was largely due to incompetent generals. In a measure this was true; though England cannot lay all the blame on her military leaders. Their plan, of campaign was wrong, as they sought to occupy territory rather than to crush resistance. But the Americans were on the defensive and although the English should gain a few victories they would not prove fatal as long as an armed resistance was maintained. Lord North, with his quaint humor said, “I do not know whether our generals will frighten the enemy, but I know that they frighten me whenever I think of them.”

Nor did America possess many brilliant generals, but they were sincere, and when supervised by the great commander, George Washington, they accomplished much. Washington’s ability to hold large armies in check with small forces imperfectly equipped and his readiness to take advantage of the slightest opportunities mark him as one of the world’s great military commanders. His victories were few and unimportant and his only important battle, a failure, but his success lies in his skill to do much with little, to take advantage of very opportunity and rise superior to every disaster. He seemed to be a gift of providence to carry out a work, the success of which was destined to play an important part in the future history of nations.

Washington has been compared to the Duke of Wellington. True, their military ability and successes are similar, but had Washington been merely another Duke of Wellington the history of the war of the Revolution would have been very different. Long after Washington, the general, was no more, Washington the patriot and statesman was an important factor in the formation of the nation; for his also was the ability to mold the will of congress to suit the needs of the war.

We, who take such great pride in calling ourselves Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution do not do so merely because independence was fought for and won. It would have meant little to us had our forefathers, favored by the advantages of good fortune, fought only for their own personal gain. But when we think of the difficulties they so courageously overcame to establish the commonwealth which they themselves could scarcely live to enjoy, we can, in part, realize the great sacrifice they made for us. It would have been easier for some people to have endured some oppression rather than to purchase freedom at so precious a price as their own lives. But we know with what valor they fought and could wish to be known by no more honorable title than Daughters of the American Revolution.

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