Catalogue


Iron tears : America's battle for freedom, Britain's quagmire, 1775-1783 /
Stanley Weintraub.
imprint
New York : Free Press, c2005.
description
xviii, 375 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps
ISBN
0743226879
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Free Press, c2005.
isbn
0743226879
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
5342466
A Look Inside
About the Author
BIH Author Biography
Stanley Weintraub is Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities at Penn State University and the author of outstanding histories and biographies including General Washington's Christmas Farewell: A Mount Vernon Homecoming, 1783; Silent Night: The Story of the 1914 Christmas Truce; MacArthur's War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero; Long Day's Journey Into War: Pearl Harbor and a World at War; and A Stillness Heard Round the World: The End of the Great War. He lives in Newark, Delaware.
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
George Washington Book Prize , USA, 2006 : Nominated
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
Preface: The Abandoned Canvas There has been built in the port of Chatham [in Kent] a ship of war of 74 guns, called the Atlas. The figurehead represents that gigantic fabulous personage with an enormous globe on his shoulders. The head carver having taking his measures badly, the globe was so high as to be in the way of the bowsprit, and it became necessary to take off part of the upper hemisphere. The part taken off was precisely North America. -- The Hague Gazette, September 13, 1782, in a translation from the Dutch reprinted in a London newspaper On a summer morning in 1782 the energetic, fortyish Benjamin West, an expatriate Philadelphian and official history painter to George III, visited what was then Buckingham House to call upon Queen Charlotte. Expecting West, Charlotte asked him into her private sitting room, where he also found the king.Realizing that the ongoing peace negotiations with the former colonies in America would lead to formal independence, the king asked West what he thought General Washington would now do. The godlike Washington, whom many Americans expected would be king if he wanted a throne, was more likely, West predicted, to return to his farm in Virginia.If Washington did that, exclaimed His Majesty, who could not believe that anyone willingly relinquished supreme authority, he would be the greatest man in the world.While General Washington still commanded the dwindling Continental army, and by strength of personality held the fractious colonies together, he had no authority over the peacemaking process three thousand miles away in Paris. Congress's appointees dealt with that, and West's immediate ambition was to paint the peace commissioners on both sides who were negotiating a draft of the peace treaty, a group portrait to be the first painting in a projected series on the long American war.One of the most memorable paintings in American history, it achieves its dramatic resonance in part because a third of the canvas remains empty. Few great pictures better illustrate a wry later observation that "victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan."The seven persons West intended to represent as working on the preliminary treaty included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin, the sage's grandson and secretary to the commission appointed by Congress. The British had great difficulty naming appointees willing to negotiate openly for the losing side while being directed by bureaucrats in Whitehall who did not want to be associated with the national embarrassment. Only a single royal commissioner, Richard Oswald, a wealthy former army contractor and slave trader with American connections, who had the courage to put up the fifty thousand pounds to bail Henry Laurens, a former president of the Congress, out of the Tower of London after he was seized at sea en route to Holland, proved willing to serve. With his secretary, Caleb Whitefoord, a writer and wit who had been a neighbor of Franklin's in London, Oswald was to be remembered by history on West's canvas.The Americans duly posed for West -- all but Franklin, who at seventy-seven was too frail for the turbulent Channel crossing from Paris. With the good offices of Whitefoord he arranged to lend a portrait and a bust in his stead. Since Oswald was unwilling to pose in the ignominy of defeat and risk the ruin of his reputation (legend had it that he also felt too ugly to show his face), Whitefoord, his subordinate and the seventh intended subject, could hardly offer to sit himself. Then Oswald died suddenly in November 1784 on his estate in Scotland. The scene could no longer be completed from life.West abandoned the canvas -- and any plans to do other episodes for his abortive series. The indelicate venture might in any case have cost him his prestigious standing at court and his market in En
First Chapter
Preface: The Abandoned CanvasThere has been built in the port of Chatham [in Kent] a ship of war of 74 guns, called the Atlas. The figurehead represents that gigantic fabulous personage with an enormous globe on his shoulders. The head carver having taking his measures badly, the globe was so high as to be in the way of the bowsprit, and it became necessary to take off part of the upper hemisphere. The part taken off was precisely North America.

-- The Hague Gazette, September 13, 1782, in a translation from the Dutch reprinted in a London newspaper

On a summer morning in 1782 the energetic, fortyish Benjamin West, an expatriate Philadelphian and official history painter to George III, visited what was then Buckingham House to call upon Queen Charlotte. Expecting West, Charlotte asked him into her private sitting room, where he also found the king.

Realizing that the ongoing peace negotiations with the former colonies in America would lead to formal independence, the king asked West what he thought General Washington would now do. The godlike Washington, whom many Americans expected would be king if he wanted a throne, was more likely, West predicted, to return to his farm in Virginia.

If Washington did that, exclaimed His Majesty, who could not believe that anyone willingly relinquished supreme authority, he would be the greatest man in the world.

While General Washington still commanded the dwindling Continental army, and by strength of personality held the fractious colonies together, he had no authority over the peacemaking process three thousand miles away in Paris. Congress's appointees dealt with that, and West's immediate ambition was to paint the peace commissioners on both sides who were negotiating a draft of the peace treaty, a group portrait to be the first painting in a projected series on the long American war.

One of the most memorable paintings in American history, it achieves its dramatic resonance in part because a third of the canvas remains empty. Few great pictures better illustrate a wry later observation that "victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan."

The seven persons West intended to represent as working on the preliminary treaty included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin, the sage's grandson and secretary to the commission appointed by Congress. The British had great difficulty naming appointees willing to negotiate openly for the losing side while being directed by bureaucrats in Whitehall who did not want to be associated with the national embarrassment. Only a single royal commissioner, Richard Oswald, a wealthy former army contractor and slave trader with American connections, who had the courage to put up the fifty thousand pounds to bail Henry Laurens, a former president of the Congress, out of the Tower of London after he was seized at sea en route to Holland, proved willing to serve. With his secretary, Caleb Whitefoord, a writer and wit who had been a neighbor of Franklin's in London, Oswald was to be remembered by history on West's canvas.

The Americans duly posed for West -- all but Franklin, who at seventy-seven was too frail for the turbulent Channel crossing from Paris. With the good offices of Whitefoord he arranged to lend a portrait and a bust in his stead. Since Oswald was unwilling to pose in the ignominy of defeat and risk the ruin of his reputation (legend had it that he also felt too ugly to show his face), Whitefoord, his subordinate and the seventh intended subject, could hardly offer to sit himself. Then Oswald died suddenly in November 1784 on his estate in Scotland. The scene could no longer be completed from life.

West abandoned the canvas -- and any plans to do other episodes for his abortive series. The indelicate venture might in any case have cost him his prestigious standing at court and his market in England for other pictures. The five abandoned Americans loom quietly over the partly open scroll of the draft treaty, while the blank third is dramatically unfinished, orphaned by defeat.

Some ghostly suggestions for carrying the picture further emerge on close examination -- a building and a grid for a more extended structure that could be the new Somerset House on the Thames, or merely a symbolic evocation of London. A hint of another treaty scroll, held by Oswald, also surfaces faintly. (Each side needed to archive its own authentic, signed copy -- thus, a likely duplicate.) John Jay's shoes remain unfinished; John Adams's breeches lack texture and his chair's legs are incomplete; and Henry Laurens's coat has an unfinished swath across his chest. Young Franklin's coat is only partially painted.

At the bicentennial of the 1783 Treaty of Paris ending the war the United States Post Office issued a twenty-cent stamp ostensibly reproducing West's painting, as if referring to the definitive event. A travesty of history and a mischievous misuse of West's canvas, it cut Jay and Laurens out and moved Adams, and in imagining how the gap which West had left would be filled, the anonymous postal artist inserted an unidentifiable Englishman in Laurens's place and a second colleague at his right. A large sheet of paper substitutes for the treaty scrolls. The grid of characteristic English buildings in the background is replaced by buildings and steeples that could be as much West's own Philadelphia as any venue in England.

History painting has often reimagined history, but the curious postal image, presumably issued with the imprimatur of the United States of America, then thirty-seven states beyond the original thirteen, is unique in its expunging and invention. With Benjamin West long dead there was no estate to bring suit for falsification and enjoin release of the stamp.

In the historical reality beyond commemorative postage Edmund Burke, MP for Bristol and an outspoken critic of colonial policy, had talked of "iron tears" being shed as America slipped away from imperial grasp. "Iron tears" suggests musket shot and cannonballs when fired as much in sadness as in anger. Was the inevitable separation worth a war? Frederick, Prince of Wales, who died before he could succeed his father, irascible old George II, had left "Instructions for my son George [III]" in which he had exhorted, "If you can be without war, let not your ambition draw you into it....At the same time, never give up your honour nor that of the nation."

Was it honorable, if mistaken, to attempt to subdue rebels who no longer wanted to be the king's subjects? Could the exasperating and expensive long-distance conflict that West's painting recalled have possibly been won? How did relinquishing America look from the remote European side of the Atlantic? Were the admirals and the generals involved enthusiastically in the king's service, or only supplicants at, or beneficiaries of, his traditional reward system? How did the country gentlemen who held the decisive seats in the king's pliant House of Commons respond to the seemingly irrelevant war, which had become a quagmire? How did the divisive conflict appear to the prosperous London brokers, bankers, and traders who benefitted from the American trade?

Further, how did the Cabinet of the unhappy and flaccid Lord North, and his unpopular but forceful Secretary for America, Lord George Germain, a saturnine former general cashiered for alleged cowardice in an earlier war, cope with the increasingly distressing events, and -- for better and for worse -- help to shape them? Did they see the self-styled Americans as suffused with patriot zeal -- or, with colonial irresponsibility, eager to escape their reasonable, even bargain-rate, burden of taxation? Or were there other reasons? The colorful and tumultuous background of that vacant third of Benjamin West's haunting canvas emerges in Iron Tears, in which the British empire loses its first jewel in the crown, America.

Stanley Weintraub

Beech Hill

Newark, Delaware

Copyright © 2005 by Stanley Weintraub

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-11-29:
Did America actually win the battle for its freedom in the Revolutionary War? Or did Britain-divided internally over whether to fight the war-simply fail to summon all its might to defeat the colonists? In this brilliant and provocative book, bestselling historian Weintraub (George Washington's Christmas Farewell, etc.) examines the possibility that the British lost the war because of protest and lack of support at home. In response to the siege of Boston in August 1775, King George accused the colonists of being traitors, but Gen. Thomas Gage urged conciliation. By 1780, the war, with its enormous casualties, had begun to take its toll at home; taxes had risen and trade had slumped, with a resulting rise in unemployment. The diversion of funds to win what seemed like an unwinnable conflict agitated both houses of Parliament as well as the working classes, who took to the streets in protests and riots. The British failure to win a war against ill-trained but determined guerrilla forces in often unpredictable circumstances and weather appears now as an eerie harbinger of modern conflicts such as the Vietnam War. Weintraub's fast-paced narrative and impeccable historical research provide a stimulating challenge to conventional histories of the Revolutionary War that focus exclusively on the heroism of American forces. Weintraub tells us the rest of the story. (Jan. 18) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2005-01-01:
A National Book Award finalist, Weintraub (emeritus, Pennsylvania State Univ.) previously addressed the American Revolution in General Washington's Christmas Farewell. In this new book, whose title refers to musket and cannon balls, he depicts the revolution as Britain's Vietnam, a war lost on the home front more than the battlefield. Weintraub argues that for the British the war was unwinnable at the outset, given the distance, the Crown's debts, and popular support for the revolt even as the gentry and nobility tried to suppress it. Concurrent with halfhearted military campaigns, there were failed diplomatic ventures to give America everything but its independence. Much of the book depicts MPs engaging in or reacting to letters, editorials, and debates on the conflict. Quotes from these materials detail how bitterly commoners opposed the war, but what could use more explanation is why. Were they in the grips of modern thought or simply opposed to the expanding tax base needed to finance the fighting? The author ably illustrates Parliament's struggles, but more light could be shone on the street. A scholarly title worth considering for academic collections.-Robert Moore, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Westford, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2005-11-01:
The premise of this book is promising: an examination of the War of American Independence as an imperial "quagmire," its outcome owing more to British incompetence than to American leadership or heroism. Weintraub (Penn State) provides a chronological narrative of the war, carefully noting just when each bit of news arrived in London or New York. Although confusing at times for readers, this approach vividly illustrates the maddening slowness of communications, which often required orders to be given in ignorance of actual conditions. The book is written almost entirely from primary sources, ignoring more than 80 years of scholarship on British politics from Sir Lewis Namier onward, much of it directly relevant to Weintraub's premise. Thus, the British Parliament's support for the American war is attributed entirely to royal corruption; Namier's analysis of political interest groups is not even mentioned. British ministers and commanders are characterized as either buffoons or poltroons, with no consideration of their accomplishments in waging war on a large scale across the Atlantic Ocean. Piers Mackesy's The War for America (CH, Jul'94) remains the best history from the British side. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General collections. J. R. Breihan Loyola College in Maryland
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, November 2004
Booklist, December 2004
Library Journal, January 2005
Choice, November 2005
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Long Description
For generations, Americans have been taught to view the Revolutionary War as a heroic tale of resistance, exclusively from the perspective of the Continental army and the Founding Fathers. Now, inIron Tears,master historian Stanley Weintraub offers the first account that examines the war from three divergent and distinct vantage points: the battlefields; the American leadership under George Washington; and -- most originally -- that of England, embroiled in controversy over the war. Colonial America was England's Vietnam.Weintraub's multifaceted analysis will forever change and expand our view of the struggle. Although Washington's army, with France's help, won the war, it is equally significant -- both then and now -- that Britain lost it. The British found themselves overwhelmed by the geographic and time constraints that prevented their military from holding on to the eighteen-hundred-mile length of the thirteen colonies, from across three thousand miles of ocean during the cumbersome era of water travel. Many in London realized that American independence was only a matter of time. Yet the British were enveloped in a fantasy world of self-delusion as the war trudged along. The unyielding George III, who ultimately threatened abdication; his lethargic prime minister, Lord North; the First Lord of the Admiralty, the corrupt Earl of Sandwich, better remembered for his paired slices of bread; and the Secretary for America, Lord George Germain, an arrogant ex-general court-martialed for cowardice in an earlier war, formed a quartet that played out of tune. As opposition to and frustration with the failing war gradually increased in parliament, in the press, and in the afflictedmercantile sector, so did pacifist sentiment for and sympathy with their American cousins.Iron Tearsrenders an unprecedented account of the fight for American independence through British eyes, while dramatically narrating the battles that were waged across the Atlantic from Lexington to Yorktown and beyond. As the general, whom the British snobbishly and demeaningly referred to as "Mr. Washington," rallied to keep his ragged and overmatched Continentals together and create a nation, "iron tears" fell from redcoat muskets and cannons, as well as from the demoralized eyes of the defeated British.
Main Description
For generations, Americans have been taught to view the Revolutionary War as a heroic tale of resistance, exclusively from the perspective of the Continental army and the Founding Fathers. Now, in Iron Tears, master historian Stanley Weintraub offers the first account that examines the war from three divergent and distinct vantage points: the battlefields; the American leadership under George Washington; and -- most originally -- that of England, embroiled in controversy over the war. Colonial America was England's Vietnam. Weintraub's multifaceted analysis will forever change and expand our view of the struggle. Although Washington's army, with France's help, won the war, it is equally significant -- both then and now -- that Britain lost it. The British found themselves overwhelmed by the geographic and time constraints that prevented their military from holding on to the eighteen-hundred-mile length of the thirteen colonies, from across three thousand miles of ocean during the cumbersome era of water travel. Many in London realized that American independence was only a matter of time. Yet the British were enveloped in a fantasy world of self-delusion as the war trudged along. The unyielding George III, who ultimately threatened abdication; his lethargic prime minister, Lord North; the First Lord of the Admiralty, the corrupt Earl of Sandwich, better remembered for his paired slices of bread; and the Secretary for America, Lord George Germain, an arrogant ex-general court-martialed for cowardice in an earlier war, formed a quartet that played out of tune. As opposition to and frustration with the failing war gradually increased in parliament, in the press, and in the afflicted mercantile sector, so did pacifist sentiment for and sympathy with their American cousins. Iron Tears renders an unprecedented account of the fight for American independence through British eyes, while dramatically narrating the battles that were waged across the Atlantic from Lexington to Yorktown and beyond. As the general, whom the British snobbishly and demeaningly referred to as "Mr. Washington," rallied to keep his ragged and overmatched Continentals together and create a nation, "iron tears" fell from redcoat muskets and cannons, as well as from the demoralized eyes of the defeated British.
Short Annotation
The Revolutionary War was not just won by the rebels.
Unpaid Annotation
This startling new history of the Revolutionary War, told for the first time from the perspective of both the colonists and the colonizers, demonstrates that for the Americans, it was a war of rebellion, for the British, it became their Vietnam.
Table of Contents
Preface : the abandoned canvas
"Cousin America" : 1775p. 1
The secretary for America : 1775-1776p. 26
"A most unaccountable madness" : January 1776-June 1776p. 45
A most precarious independence : July 1776-December 1776p. 67
The best laid schemes : January 1777-July 1777p. 89
Saratoga trumps Philadephia : July 1777-December 1777p. 109
Except in parliament : January 1778-June 1778p. 132
The French connection : June 1778-December 1778p. 157
The war on trial : January 1779-June 1779p. 179
Moderately feeding the war : June 1779-December 1779p. 199
The time of the tumults : January 1780-June 1780p. 219
A dearth of heroes : June 1780-December 1780p. 245
Marching about the country : January 1781-Julyl 1781p. 265
"The world turn'd upside down" : July 1781-December 1781p. 286
The failure of fire and sword : January 1782-January 1784p. 311
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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