After the story of the Pilgrims follows the tale of independence. “The Patriot”  is a 2000 American epic historical fiction war film. The film mainly takes place in rural Berkeley County, South Carolina, and depicts the story of an American Colonist, Benjamin Martin, nominally loyal to the British Crown, who is swept into the American Revolutionary War when his family is threatened.

“Yankees kicking out the British”

Sadly the author of this amazing caricature is unknown but Wikipedia provides us this wonderful description: “English: 1890’s caricature of Americans kicking out the British. Uncle Sam looks on as a youthful George Washington in tricorne hat kicks John Bull across the water, out of “U.S.” and back to “England”.” During the American Revolution, Washington led the colonial forces to victory over the British and became a national hero. Later on he would also become the first president of the United States. I think that the picture is a perfect representation of the man’s deeds.

The image has a very strong patriotic feel considering it took quite the effort for the States to actually become independent. With the declaration, the colonies are no longer English land and are now a separate (but united) country. Kicking the English “back to England” implies that they intruded without permission even though Americans (most of them) are descendants of the British. Over time, the differences between Americans and Brits grew, they started seeing themselves as a separate nation and could no longer compromise on the unfair treatment they felt they were receiving.


Critical response

The Patriot” is what it claims to be – patriotic, but it does so at the expense of the British and the African American slaves. The movie paints the Englishmen in bad light and flat out ignores facts about the history of slavery in the united states.

“In every war ever fought there have been crimes on both sides, and the War of Independence was no exception. (The rebels could be as ruthless as the British, but none of their atrocities are shown in this film).”

Colonel Tavington and his attitude towards the “free men” working Benjamin’s land, his brutal killings of injured Americans and Benjamin’s son, and later on the church incident, tilt the viewer towards disliking him. Lord Cornwallis also plays a big part in the image of Brits in this movie. His complex about honor and blatant selfishness are not something easy to sympathize with.

Reddit user Jerseydevil556 writes about the church burning incident:

“Never happened. The propaganda value of a whole town being burned alive by the British would have been so great that there would be no end to Americans talking about it.”

And I couldn’t agree more. There is no written evidence about anything remotely similar happening during the Revolutionary War. Looking at how the Boston Massacre was used for anti-British propaganda (5 people killed), we would never hear the end of an event such as the one depicted in the movie (an entire village burned alive). However, there are records of a similar event occurring during WW2. In 1944 Nazi soldiers committed an almost identical crime in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France, 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred. Meaning not only did the film paint a portrait of the British as cruel killers, it compared them to history’s worst: the Nazis.

“We will have a chance to make a new world,” Martin’s son Gabriel (Heath Ledger) tells him earnestly, “where all men are equal in the sight of God.” “Equal,” intones the slave. “That sounds good.” Don’t get your hopes up, old chap. It took the civil war to end slavery in the US, almost a century after The Patriot is set.

The patriot’s” complete ignoring of the slave situation of that time is one of the most criticized things about the movie. The film generally takes place in South Carolina, a state in the Deep South, a part of the country in which a very large majority of landowners owned slaves. Benjamin coincidentally not being a part of that majority is just another example of (bad) writing that disregards facts.

All in all, “The Patriot” would be more enjoyable if I was less aware of the history but even then, the unrealistic battle scenes would probably make me laugh at inappropriate moments. The movie is trying to be “patriotic” by today’s standards (slavery is unethical to every decent human being) and thus, as Hollywood movies tend to, ignores history. 


Notions

The origin and essence of the conflict between England and the colony

TAXATION:  The British national debt had climbed from 72 million pounds before the war to 132 million at its end. To pay down this debt, Britain instituted a land tax at home, and imposed excise tax on many commonly traded goods. The colonies had profited greatly from the war. Military contracts and expenditures by British troops had meant a large inflow of British currency. Trade flourished, and many Americans traded with the French West Indies.

The Stamp Act of 1765 taxed colonists on virtually every piece of printed paper they used, from playing cards and business licenses to newspapers and legal documents. The Townshend Acts of 1767 went a step further, taxing essentials such as paint, paper, glass, lead and tea. Britain felt the taxes were fair since much of its debt was earned fighting wars on the colonists’ behalf.  The colonists, however, disagreed. They were furious at being taxed without having any representation in Parliament, and felt it was wrong for Britain to impose taxes on them to gain revenue.

COLONIAL AND BRITISH SOLDIERS: In Britain, it was widely assumed that the professional troops sent to the colonies deserved full credit for British victory in the war. In reality, about 40 percent of the regular soldiers who served in the war enlisted in America. American soldiers complained constantly during and after the war that British public opinion drastically underestimated America’s part. British soldiers, for their part, bemoaned the ineptitude of the colonial troops. They claimed the colonials were useless in battle and had no real sense of duty, tending to return home, even in the midst of a campaign, when their terms were up or they were not paid on time. British troops also quarreled with colonial civilians, who were often reluctant to provide food and shelter to the British, and consistently complained of the troops’ poor behavior.

Emerging after the war was a new dynamic in Anglo-American relations. The British sought to control their colonial possessions more tightly, and sent greater numbers of officials to America, imposed regulations on trade, and restricted territorial expansion to this effect. The colonies, on the other hand, wished to be free to govern themselves, to trade as they desired, and to expand into the West. The French and Indian war was hailed as a victory for Britain in its attempt to control its colonies, but the conditions immediately after the war’s close set the stage for a widening rift rather than the maintenance of affable relations. Once the wartime economic boom ended, many Americans went into debt trying to maintain their middle-class lifestyle. Colonial debts to Britain grew rapidly.

https://www.sparknotes.com/history/american/prerevolution/section1/ https://dailyhistory.org/Why_Did_American_Colonists_Become_United_Against_England%3F

Boston Tea Party of 1773

The Boston Tea Party was a political protest that occurred on December 16, 1773, at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. American colonists, frustrated and angry at Britain for imposing “taxation without representation,” dumped 342 chests of British tea into the harbor. The event was the first major act of defiance to British rule over the colonists. That night, a large group of men – many reportedly members of the Sons of Liberty – disguised themselves in Native American garb. The chests held more than 45 tons of tea, which would cost nearly $1,000,000 dollars today. It showed Great Britain that Americans wouldn’t take taxation and tyranny sitting down, and rallied American patriots across the 13 colonies to fight for independence.

Britain eventually repealed the taxes it had imposed on the colonists except the tea tax. It wasn’t about to give up tax revenue on the nearly 1.2 million pounds of tea the colonists drank each year. In protest, the colonists boycotted tea sold by British East India Company and smuggled in Dutch tea, leaving British East India Company with millions of pounds of surplus tea and facing bankruptcy. In May 1773, British Parliament passed the Tea Act which allowed British East India Company to sell tea to the colonies duty-free and much cheaper than other tea companies – but still tax the tea when it reached colonial ports. Tea smuggling in the colonies increased, although the cost of the smuggled tea soon surpassed that of tea from British East India Company with the added tea tax.

https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/boston-tea-party

https://www.britannica.com/event/Boston-Tea-Party

Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

The United States Declaration of Independence is the statement adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting at the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1776. The Declaration announced that the Thirteen Colonies at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain would regard themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states, no longer under British rule. With the Declaration, these new states took a collective first step toward forming the United States of America. The term „Declaration of independence“ is never used in the document itself.

As the first formal statement by a nation’s people asserting their right to choose their own government, the Declaration of Independence became a significant landmark in the history of democracy. In addition to its importance in the fate of the fledgling American nation, it also exerted a tremendous influence outside the United States, most memorably in France during the French Revolution. Together with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence can be counted as one of the three essential founding documents of the United States government.

https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/declaration-of-independence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

Revolutionary War 1775-1783, reasons, outcome

American Revolution, also called United States War of Independence or American Revolutionary War, (1775–83), insurrection by which 13 of Great Britain’s North American colonies won political independence and went on to form the United States of America. The war followed more than a decade of growing estrangement between the British crown and its North American colonies that was caused by British attempts to assert greater control over colonial affairs after having long adhered to a policy of salutary neglect. Until early in 1778 the conflict was a civil war within the British Empire, but afterward it became an international war as France (in 1778) and Spain (in 1779) joined the colonies against Britain. From the beginning, sea power was vital in determining the course of the war, lending to British strategy a flexibility that helped compensate for the comparatively small numbers of troops sent to America and ultimately enabling the French to help bring about the final British surrender at Yorktown.

The American Revolution was principally caused by colonial opposition to British attempts to impose greater control over the colonies and to make them repay the crown for its defense of them during the French and Indian War (1754–63). Britain did this primarily by imposing a series of deeply unpopular laws and taxes, including the Sugar Act (1764) and the Stamp Act (1765).

Preliminary articles of peace were signed on November 30, 1782, and the Peace of Paris (September 3, 1783) ended the U.S. War of Independence. Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States (with western boundaries to the Mississippi River) and ceded Florida to Spain. Other provisions called for payment of U.S. private debts to British citizens, American use of the Newfoundland fisheries, and fair treatment for American colonials loyal to Britain.

https://www.britannica.com/event/American-Revolution/The-war-at-sea#ref229883

Articles of Confederation of 1781

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was an agreement among the 13 original states of the United States of America that served as its first constitution. It was approved, after much debate (between July 1776 and November 1777), by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777, and sent to the states for ratification. The Articles of Confederation came into force on March 1, 1781, after being ratified by all 13 states. A guiding principle of the Articles was to preserve the independence and sovereignty of the states. The weak central government established by the Articles received only those powers which the former colonies had recognized as belonging to king and parliament.

On paper, the Congress had power to regulate foreign affairs, war, and the postal service and to appoint military officers, control Indian affairs, borrow money, determine the value of coin, and issue bills of credit. In reality, however, the Articles gave the Congress no power to enforce its requests to the states for money or troops, and by the end of 1786 governmental effectiveness had broken down.

Nevertheless, some solid accomplishments had been achieved: certain state claims to western lands were settled, and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the fundamental pattern of evolving government in the territories north of the Ohio River. Equally important, the Confederation provided the new nation with instructive experience in self-government under a written document. In revealing their own weaknesses, the Articles paved the way for the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the present form of U.S. government.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Articles_of_Confederation

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Articles-of-Confederation

Constitutional Convention of 1787

Constitutional Convention, (1787), in U.S. history, convention that drew up the Constitution of the United States. Stimulated by severe economic troubles, which produced radical political movements such as Shays’s Rebellion, and urged on by a demand for a stronger central government, the convention met in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia (May 25–September 17, 1787), ostensibly to amend the Articles of Confederation. All the states except Rhode Island responded to an invitation issued by the Annapolis Convention of 1786 to send delegates. Of the 74 deputies chosen by the state legislatures, only 55 took part in the proceedings; of these, 39 signed the Constitution. The delegates included many of the leading figures of the period. Among them were George Washington, who was elected to preside, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, Oliver Ellsworth, and Gouverneur Morris.

The matter of counting slaves in the population for figuring representation was settled by a compromise agreement that three-fifths of the slaves should be counted as population in apportioning representation and should also be counted as property in assessing taxes. Controversy over the abolition of the importation of slaves ended with the agreement that importation should not be forbidden before 1808. The powers of the federal executive and judiciary were enumerated, and the Constitution was itself declared to be the “supreme law of the land.” The convention’s work was approved by a majority of the states the following year.

https://www.britannica.com/event/Constitutional-Convention

US Constitution and the Bill of Rights

The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America. It was created in 1787 and is still in use to this date. It was ratified in 1788. It originally was comprised of seven articles. Its first three articles describe the federal government’s three branches: the legislative (the bicameral Congress), the executive (the President) and the judicial (Supreme Court). The fourth to sixth articles describe the rights and responsibilities of states and state governments. The seventh article describes how federal procedure should be ratified. The US Constitution also includes 27 amendments. However, originally, the constitution only had ten amendments. These ten original amendments are referred to as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was introduced to address the objections of those who were concerned that the state might be gaining too much power. The Bill of Rights grants guarantees of personal freedoms and rights.

Written during the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, the Constitution of the United States of America is the fundamental law of the US federal system of government and the landmark document of the Western world. It is the oldest written national constitution in use and defines the principal organs of government and their jurisdictions and the basic rights of citizens.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution—the Bill of Rights—came into effect on December 15, 1791, limiting the powers of the federal government of the United States and protecting the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors in American territory.

The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the freedom of assembly and the freedom to petition. It also prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment and compelled self-incrimination. Among the legal protections it affords, the Bill of Rights prohibits Congress from making any law respecting establishment of religion and prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. In federal criminal cases it requires indictment by a grand jury for any capital offense, or infamous crime, guarantees a speedy public trial with an impartial jury in the district in which the crime occurred, and prohibits double jeopardy.

https://www.humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/brief-history/declaration-of-independence.html

The role of George Washington

George Washington (1732-99) was commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War (1775-83) and served two terms as the first U.S. president, from 1789 to 1797. The son of a prosperous planter, Washington was raised in colonial Virginia. As a young man, he worked as a surveyor then fought in the French and Indian War (1754-63). During the American Revolution, he led the colonial forces to victory over the British and became a national hero. In 1787, he was elected president of the convention that wrote the U.S. Constitution. Two years later, Washington became America’s first president. Realizing that the way he handled the job would impact how future presidents approached the position, he handed down a legacy of strength, integrity and national purpose. Less than three years after leaving office, he died at his Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon, at age 67.

Did you know? At the time of his death in 1799, George Washington owned some 300 slaves. However, before his passing, he had become opposed to slavery, and in his will he ordered that his slaves to be freed after his wife’s death.

https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/george-washington

The role of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. president, was a leading figure in America’s early development. During the American Revolutionary War (1775-83), Jefferson served in the Virginia legislature and the Continental Congress and was governor of Virginia. He later served as U.S. minister to France and U.S. secretary of state, and was vice president under John Adams (1735-1826). Jefferson, who thought the national government should have a limited role in citizens’ lives, was elected president in 1800. During his two terms in office (1801-1809), the U.S. purchased the Louisiana Territory and Lewis and Clark explored the vast new acquisition. Although Jefferson promoted individual liberty, he was also a slave owner. After leaving office, he retired to his Virginia plantation, Monticello, and helped found the University of Virginia.

In 1775, with the American Revolutionary War recently under way, Jefferson was selected as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. Although not known as a great public speaker, he was a gifted writer and at age 33, was asked to draft the Declaration of Independence (before he began writing, Jefferson discussed the document’s contents with a five-member drafting committee that included John Adams and Benjamin Franklin). The Declaration of Independence, which explained why the 13 colonies wanted to be free of British rule and also detailed the importance of individual rights and freedoms, was adopted on July 4, 1776.

One of the most significant achievements of Jefferson’s first administration was the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million in 1803. At more than 820,000 square miles, the acquisition (which included lands extending between the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico to present-day Canada) effectively doubled the size of the United States. Jefferson then commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the uncharted land, plus the area beyond, out to the Pacific Ocean. (At the time, most Americans lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic Ocean). The expedition, known today as the Corps of Discovery, lasted from 1804 to 1806 and provided valuable information about the geography, American Indian tribes and animal and plant life of the western part of the continent.

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