David McCullough


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1776 Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Part I: The Siege

Chapter 1 Summary: Sovereign Duty

The book opens on Oct. 26, 1775 with King George III making a procession in his magnificent 4-ton coach pulled by eight Hanoverian cream horses. He had designed the allegorical vehicle himself with three gilded cherubim, one of each representing England, Scotland, and Ireland, despite the fact he had never been outside of England. Over the spokes of the wheels were gilded sea gods representing England’s domination of the seas. The entire coach itself was a symbol of England’s vast colonies and wealth.

The king’s attire was usually much less ornate. Rather than dalliance at court, he preferred the life of a farmer at Windsor and the company of his plain wife to whom he was faithful. Some thought him unattractive and unintelligent, but this was hardly the case. He was tall with clear blue eyes and loved music, playing both the violin and the   piano. He also collected art. People liked him. One of the most important men of the age, Samuel Johnson, found him good company. The so-called “madness” for which he was long remembered was really porphyria, an inherited disease of malfunctioning enzymes.

Though not a military man, he had no doubt that the flagrantly misbehaving colonies must be made to obey. Though there were some dissenters, most Whigs and Tories agreed with the king. The war under Howe and Washington officially began in Lexington and Concord and then Bunker Hill. Upon hearing the news of the terrible defeat (1,000 casualties), the king decided to add 2,000 reinforcements and 20,000 regulars in the spring. The actual details of Bunker Hill had come to their ears late—1,000 dead.

With the war, the king’s popularity surged, though there were many dissenters such as The Evening Post and The St. James Chronicle. Though things were going badly, the king was determined and rejected William Penn’s “olive branch petition.” When the king realized that the rebellion in America was serious, that they really did wish to break away, he resolved to put them down even more quickly, but also to offer immediate open forgiveness when they were…

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Chapter 2