“In September 1761, the colonial Englishman Benjamin Franklin, on tour in the Low Countries, eagerly anticipated a return to his home in London to attend the coronation of George III. With his invitation secured, he reached London in time for the festivities, but a storm delayed his arrival at Westminster Abbey and he had to content himself with watching the pageant from a distance.”
So begins an article in the August 2007 edition of History Today magazine. “The American Monarchy” was written by Frank Prochaska, who teaches history at Yale. For students of British and American history, it is fascinating. It should also be of great interest to those who understand the biblical truth of the modern identity of the tribe of Joseph.
“Franklin’s admiration for his monarch had few limits. After a dinner at Versailles hosted by Louis XV in 1767, he reported that ‘no Frenchman shall go beyond me in thinking my own king and queen the very best in the World and most amiable.’ As a frequent guest at court, he attended George III’s birthday festivities in 1771, and the following year wrote to his son of the King’s ‘great regard’ for him.”
Pointedly, the American author writes: “As Franklin’s devotion to royalty illustrates, it was no easy matter to break with so universal a system of government as monarchy, especially for colonial subjects who thought of themselves as patriotic Englishmen and their King as a guardian of the Protestant faith and the ‘father of his people.’
“George III was no less revered in America for being so remote. Distance made him a more difficult target and enhanced the monarch as symbol. With an ocean between them, few colonists ever set eyes upon a member of the royal family, but they demonstrated their allegiance through ritual celebrations of royal birthdays, coronations and marriages.”
Uniqueness of the American Revolution
If it was “no easy matter” for the colonists to break with the British monarchy, why then did it happen?
A PBS series on the subject of the American Revolution some years ago came to the conclusion that it should never have happened. An episode of the History International Channel’s Global View came to a similar conclusion, with all panelists agreeing that the rupture between Great Britain and its American colonies set back the power and influence of the English-speaking world.
A&E’s presentation on Benedict Arnold noted that, on the eve of the final Battle of Yorktown, most colonists were loyal to the crown. John Adams, who would become the second president of the United States, wrote that the colonies were divided into three thirds—those loyal to the crown, those who wanted a break with the crown and those who were indifferent.
Perhaps most telling is the simple fact of the uniqueness of the American Revolution. It is the only revolution in history led by people who were, on average, wealthier than the people they rebelled against! Generally, in revolutions, the poor majority rebel against the rich minority, but this was most decidedly not the case in America over two centuries ago.
As another American historian, Gordon Wood, put it: “The social conditions that generally are supposed to lie behind all revolutions—poverty and economic deprivation—were not present in colonial America. There should no longer be any doubt about it: the white American colonists were not an oppressed people; they had no crushing imperial chains to throw off” ( The Radicalism of the American Revolution , 1991, p. 4).
Over 200 years after the American Revolution, most Americans have a very vague understanding of the institution of monarchy. Eighteenth-century Americans were quite different. Colonists “looked to the King for political legitimacy.” They “believed the monarchy to be the guarantor of their rights” (Prochaska).
These rights went back to the Magna Carta in 1215 when England’s barons forced King John to give them rights that form the basis of the Anglo-American legal system. Within the same century, the first parliament met. Gradually, through the centuries, the power of parliament increased at the expense of the monarchy.
“Since the early seventeenth century the English had radically transformed their monarchy: they had executed one king and deposed another, written charters and bills of rights, regularized the meetings of their parliaments, and even created a new line of hereditary succession” (Wood, p. 13).
In the 17th century England had even abolished the monarchy and the country became a republic for a brief period. The republic, like the Roman republic centuries earlier, led to dictatorship. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 was perceived as the necessary balance of power to guarantee freedom from the potential abuse of parliamentary power.
While he was prince of Wales, the future King George III said: “The pride, the glory of Britain, and the direct end of its constitution is political liberty” (Wood, p. 14.) This is also quoted in the History Today article, where the following words are added: “Thus have we created the noblest constitution the human mind is capable of framing, where the executive power is in the prince, the legislative in the nobility and the representatives of the people, and the judicial in the people and in some cases the nobility, to whom there lies a final appeal from all other courts of judicature, where every man’s life, liberty and possessions are secure.”
So why the break with England? The answer is quite simple. It had to happen to fulfill prophecy.
Fulfillment of Bible prophecy
The biblical patriarch Jacob, renamed Israel, had 12 sons. One of these sons was Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery. God was with Joseph who, after years of personal suffering, rose to become the prime minister of Egypt. Eventually, Joseph was reunited with his family. His father, Israel, laid his hands on the two sons of Joseph and blessed them, in one of the most prophetically significant chapters of the Bible.
“The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (Genesis 48:16 Genesis 48:16The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the middle of the earth.
American King James Version×).
“Let my name be named on them” means that Joseph’s descendants now carry the name of Israel. In turn, this means that biblical prophecies about Israel in the last days generally apply to them and not the Jews in the Middle East, although the Jews may be included if the prophecy is about all 12 tribes of Israel.
Israel continued, seemingly getting the boys confused by placing his right hand on the head of the younger son, Ephraim, instead of the elder son, Manasseh. This went against established custom and precedent, but clearly Israel knew what he was doing.
“But his father refused [to switch his hands] and said, ‘I know, my son, I know. He [Manasseh, the eldest] also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations” (Genesis 48:19 Genesis 48:19And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
American King James Version×).
The two brothers, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to become a great multitude of nations and a great single nation. Nowhere else in history can we see this more than in the British Empire and the United States.
Here we can begin to understand why ties between the American colonists and the monarchy had to be severed. Every British colony had its own parliament. All these parliaments shared a common loyalty and that loyalty was to the crown. American historian Brendan McConville described the king as “the empire’s living embodiment” ( The King’s Three Faces: The Rise and Fall of Royal America 1688-1776, 2006).
This continues down to the present day when George III’s descendant, Queen Elizabeth II, carries the title head of the Commonwealth, an organization composed of 54 former British colonies. The Empire and Commonwealth, made up of dozens of different countries, truly have been “a multitude of nations.”
A remarkable story
The American colonies were destined to somehow break with the crown in order to form the great single nation that Joseph’s father, Jacob (Israel), said Manasseh would become. So the severing of ties between the American colonists and the English monarchy turned out to be the fulfillment of this important prophecy in Genesis 48. The other colonies remained under the crown. It’s a remarkable story, the fulfillment of a prophecy that was written down thousands of years ago and that has not been fulfilled by any other nations.
What is also remarkable is how much the British monarchy influenced the American presidency, the story of which is told in Dr. Prochaska’s article. After the Revolutionary War, the new nation was in a quandary. The leaders of the revolution had demonized the king, but they still felt the British had the best political system in the world.
“The hostility to Britain and its King during the Revolution has tended to obscure the constitutional affinities between the two nations. Americans, as Franklin’s grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache put it in 1797, created a constitution before they ‘had sufficiently un-monarchized their views and habits’ ” (Prochaska).
“The forms of government on offer to the Founding Fathers were essentially variations of monarchy, ‘the rule of one.’ Moreover, most colonists had looked favorably on Britain’s hereditary monarchy before the Revolution. So too had leading eighteenth century European political philosophers” (ibid.).
Even after the Revolution, “the theory of mixed government of Kings, Lords and Commons had a compelling logic to many Americans who desired security, a just measure of liberty, and the avoidance of arbitrary rule.” Continuing, Dr. Prochaska writes: “It is one of the great ironies of the US constitution that the Founding Fathers invested more power in the presidency than George III exercised as King” (ibid.).
He adds: “For all their revolutionary rhetoric Americans treated ‘His Excellency’ George Washington as a republican version of ‘His Majesty’ King George. Some Americans, sensitive to the symbolism of power, believed the President required a title and pored over the titles of the European princes to find one that had not been appropriated. Thomas McKean, chief justice of Pennsylvania, thought ‘Most Serene Highness’ desirable.
“Washington himself was said to have preferred the style of ‘High Mightiness’ used by the Stadtholder of the Netherlands. The reigning Stadtholder, William V, was among the Europeans who saw George Washington as an uncrowned monarch. As he said to Adams: ‘Sir, you have given yourselves a king under the title of president.’ In the Senate a titles committee suggested ‘His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of the Rights of the Same.’”
Fortunately for Americans, both the Senate and the House of Representatives eventually settled for the simple title of the president of the United States.
The blessing of stability
In hindsight, what is truly remarkable is that these two institutions, the British monarchy and the American presidency, have been the solid political foundation blocks upon which their nations have been built. The United States has enjoyed political stability for over 140 years, since the end of the Civil War. Great Britain’s period of stability is even longer, going back to the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89.
Those nations in the Commonwealth that have maintained their direct allegiance to the crown have shared in that long period of stability. The nations within the Commonwealth that look to the British monarch as the head of the Commonwealth but have become republics have mostly had a tumultuous ride since severing the direct tie. None has been able to establish a successful republic on the American model.
The blessings promised to the descendants of Joseph could not have been fulfilled without political stability. Economic progress is impossible when there is no solid political foundation.
It is amazing to see how God worked with both Britain and America to give them the solid historical foundation that has made them for some time the most stable governments on earth. WNP