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View Diary: Mercenaries, war, and my childhood (368 comments)

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  •  Don't Know What Nick Said, But (4.00)
    This country holds as one of it most cherished historical milestones the victory of George Washington over the Hessian mercenaries in the Battle of Trenton.  The use of these German soldiers of fortune was a controversial matter at the time, much resented in America, and deplored by a number of prominent British statesmen.  Here is what the Earl of Chatham, William Pitt, a/k/a Pitt the Elder, had to say about it in the House of Lords on November 18, 1777 (before news of the disaster at Saratoga had reached London, BTW):

    "You may swell every expense and every effort, still more extravagantly; pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow; traffic and barter with every little pitiful German prince that sells and sends his subjects to the shambles of a foreign prince; your efforts are forever vain and impotent--doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely; for it irritates to an incurable resentment the minds of your enemies--to overrun them with the mercenary sons of rapine and plunder; devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty! If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms--never--never--never!"

    Using mercenaries is wrong, period.  We had to fight mercenaries to become a nation ourselves.  Not incidentally, I believe that Washington's Trenton victory had some personal score-settling behind it.  The commander of the Hessians had apparently committed some atrocity after the Battle of Long Island, killing a number of Washington's men who had surrendered.  At least that's what I remember reading about long ago, if anyone has any details about this, please correct me, or fill in the blanks.

    "Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill together." - Edmund Burke

    by JJB on Fri Apr 02, 2004 at 04:41:01 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Look in our Declaration of Independence (none)
      For an example of the rhetorical ammo that use of mercenaries provides an insurgency. I am not in any way equating Iraqi insurgents to Jefferson or Paine.
      •  No difference (none)
        I doubt any Iraqi sees much of a difference between the two unless the mercs are really super abusing their position of power. A foreign soldier on your soil is just that, regardless of who's paying him how much. I think there's been a lot of resentment built up by the checkpoints, searches, house raids (complete with dogs, feet on heads and petty theft) and live fire crowd control, especially in areas considered troublesome.

        I'm put in mind of how the British troops were welcomed in Nationalist parts of Belfast when they arrived. The welcome didn't last long. There's bound to be a lot of friction between any civilian population and a group of armed young men on their streets controlling their movements, especially when they two groups are from radically different cultures. The more friction, the more risk to the occupiers, the more risk, the more they impinge on peoples normal lives and so... more friction.

        Never wrestle a pig... you both get dirty but the pig likes it.

        by nyoos junkey on Fri Apr 02, 2004 at 05:10:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Thank-you for posting that (none)
      Here is what the Earl of Chatham, William Pitt, aka Pitt the Elder, had to say about it in the House of Lords on November 18, 1777 (before news of the disaster at Saratoga had reached London, BTW):

      "You may swell every expense and every effort, still more extravagantly; pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow; traffic and barter with every little pitiful German prince that sells and sends his subjects to the shambles of a foreign prince; your efforts are forever vain and impotent--doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely; for it irritates to an incurable resentment the minds of your enemies--to overrun them with the mercenary sons of rapine and plunder; devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty! If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms--never--never--never!"

      That is one of the most power indictments against a wealth corrupted morally bankrupt war I have seen.

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