Fear, Distrust & Belief!
Yes indeed: strange as it may seem, the United States in the early 20th century still believed that it was England’s / Great Britain’s intention to attack and reclaim the USA as a colony. And this fear and distrust did not disappear until many years and presidents after ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt. I may go into that at the end of this in the form of an ‘Epilogue’; how does that sound?
Then again my nutty theories and conclusions may well deserve a post of their own; let’s see how I go with this little lot!
This distrust, this fear, started right at the beginning of the new republic and was firmly encouraged by the other recently formed republic, soon to be a monarchy, soon after, to be republic again, France; who naturally enough, was at war with the English/British.
I think it’s safe to say mainly the English, the Irish Protestant north joined the united Kingdom’s of England and Scotland n 1801, whilst the Catholic souths sympathies lay with the French, and the Scots were not wont to interfere in the Anglo/French conflicts which had being going on forever, and they were probably sick of the whole mess.
In 1812 after the assination of the Pime Minister, Lord Liverpool became the PM and cancelled the Orders in Council which had upset the Americans and was a big concession on their part, Liverpool wanted a practicle working relationship with the new republic but his peace proposals arrived to late! President Madison was declaring war on the British; even when he recieved the proposals some time after hostilities were commenced, he didn’t put a halt to the war. Didn’t trust the English!
The English had actually become used to the idea of the USA and in fact liked it; it actually saved them considerable expense and worry, as a British colony it could/would naturally expect the Royal Navy to protect it from any invaders, and come to it’s aid if ever it were attacked. As a stand alone country with people of English/British descent, open for trade it all looked pretty damned good to London! The centre of world trade at that time, what could be better?
Yet the people and government of the US still could not believe it possible, and that when the time was ripe the British would launch an invasion to reclaim the country. And this remained inbedded in the pysche of the Congress, Senate and the Presidents of the USA to well into the 20th century.
Now President Teddy had a problem with the GWF; what if they turned right after leaving Gibraltar, the fleet would cruise by France. Would it be prudent to visit a French port or would London perceive this as an act of agression?
If he sent his fleet into a French port, could he then send it to England, if so what would the reception be like. Would they be welcomed; or would the English see that the pride of the United Staes Navy was a squadron of obsolete old ironclads, which just one of the RN’s Dreadnoughts could eliminate without much trouble? Would the British think that now the time was ripe to attack and take back the American colonies?
Remember at the turn of the 20th century, the British Empire was the biggest most powerful the world have ever seen.
Best not provoke them, head home for the US instead! And so they did.
What would their Reception have been in England?
Of course this is entirely hypothetical, but I don’t think I’m far off course ; to keep this post in its nautical sense!
Contrary to popular belief King Edward VII, was a decent sort of bloke and king; he was very fond of Americans; especially of the buxom female variety.
As a 19 year old he took his first tour of the USA in 1860, which was very successful for both sides; he went to Washington’s tomb at Mt Vernon to pay his respects to the very man who’d led the United States Army against the rule of his great grandfather George III.
Had the GWF gone to England (and also France and possibly Germany) I have no doubt that the welcome they would have received from King, and English people would have overshadowed the receptions and festivities that had been enjoyed in the antipodean colonies. I imagine the bulk of the fleet would have been welcomed at Spithead and the Flagship/s with an escort or two would have been welcomed at the Pool of London.
Rather grainy photo of the Great Fleet at Spithead prior to the Great War (later called WWII) which gives some idea of the size and power of the Royal Navy.
Edward would have reviewed the fleet at Spithead and wined and dined the American admirals at Buckingham Palace, and a parade through the streets of London would have followed. I have no doubt of this. But it was not to be; the English were not to be trusted.
It was not until the early 1920’s that The United States put the fear, mistrust that had plagued them for more than a hundred years, finally to sleep for good; the aftermath however was unimaginable.
14 thoughts on “The Great White Fleet Saga. Finale!”
Some of us still mistrust the Brits . . . except for Monty Python and Jethro Tull, of course.
In general, I don’t trust anyone bowing their head to a monarch. Any monarch.
Interesting and informative read. Not sure I’ve ever read of the mistrust you speak of that ran into the early 1900s.
I checked Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom%E2%80%93United_States_relations) and while there were some disagreements, there’s no mention of fears that the British were coming again.
The Wiki account of the GWF is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_White_Fleet
It makes no mention of the reasons for the itinerary, although, like you, many have speculated.
Here’s the naval historical library entry on the fleet:
It wasn’t until after the Washington Treaty of 1922 or 23 that the US relaxed, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Naval_Treaty (this will give you some indication of the why & wherefore and the relative strenghts) there is a passing mention in this Wiki entry that mentions the risk of war between the US and UK, but as I say it’s just a passing mention and does not go into any great depth naturally enough. Don’t want to “stir the possum” up again do we ? 😀
After the Washington Treaty of 1922 the situation changed and the US relaxed from the perceived threat from the UK, this link to Wiki makes passing mention of this; naturally the writers didn’t want to raise the spectre of British/USA discord again. Please don’t ask me to go back to all the reference books on things historical that I’ve kind of given up.
I’ll probably lose my Yankee chums after this post by stating(implying?0 that the US were ever in fear of the British/English, but that’s as it may be.
I do need to do a follow up blog on the Washington Treaty and the aftermath which I mentioned.
That seems incredible to me . . . you have Yankee chums?! Huh!
Seriously, not questioning your sources or conclusions, and fully accepting your assessment. I did find some additional references about tensions from the era, and they did mention some possible reasons why the GWF did not swing by France and England, and the political reasons are as good as any.
It could also be the ships were beginning to spring leaks, and wanted to make it home before they sank.
Another good reason not to let the English see them?
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I don’t recall ever reading of distrust between England and the US in that era, but that might only mean my history teachers never got around to mentioning it.
Sorry PT haven’t been looking at my site lately and just noticed your comment had not been aknowledged, please forgive my ignorance.
Perhaps the history teachers didn’t think it right to teach this part of history, for some reason there seems to be people who equate the word fear with cowardice which of course is quite wrong. The English have lived in fear and threat of invasion since the last successful one which was some time ago back n 1066. I beleive it is the fear that brings out the very best in us in times of stress.
The supposed threat of an invasion by the English on the US only disappeared forever after the signing of the Washingto Treaty of 1922 and perhaps the teachers from that time on thought best not to stir the possum.
Once again my apologies for not acknowledging sooner.
I don’t know how to enable comments to get posted without having to go through the nonsense of approval, I did look but havent worked it out yet 😦
Check your comments settings (Dashboard > Settings > Discussion Settings). Scroll down to “Before a comment appears” and make sure the first item (“Comment must be manually approved”) is NOT checked.
Thanks PT; I see young Emilio is sticking his bib in again :D, I’ll go see if I can fix the problem
Thanks PT I think I may have fixed it, I have an idea I did this once before and neglected to hit the save button at the bottom of the page 😦 😀
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Look for the “Before a comment appears” option and make sure neither boxes are checked.
Thank you PT oops, sorry, ej, I think I may have fixed the problem; I think I may have tried this before but didn’t hit the save button at the bottom; typical ❗ 😀
Looks like it’s fixed ej I came to check and PT’s reply went straight in like they’re supposed to do. 🙄