The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington: Charles Rosenberg
The British aim to teach the colonists a lesson they will never forget. Therefore, Lord Frederick North has created a secret plan to hopefully force them to end the war. The year 1780 the time period after the War for Independence and Britain is almost bankrupt and the colonists will pay the price. Planning on kidnapping George Washington with a well planned out plot to arrest him for treason, as the commander-in-chief of the American army he feels the plan is foolproof. Enter the man who would risk his life and that of many others, Jeremiah Black who would go undercover to capture Washington and place him on the HMS Peregine under guard. Things go as planned and Black does manage to get off the ship, find the man who was sent to help him complete his mission but something happens and Dr. H. Stevens and Black find themselves in danger and Stevens is killed. Obstacles in his way and Black goes to an inn that is owed by Steven’s wife and he becomes a prisoner of sort until things get sorted out and Washington is in his custody. Washington is taken on the ship and things appear to go as planned for the most part. Washington explains when questioned that “We have declared our own independent nation because the blessings that you speak of have been bestowed only on men who live in England.” Those blessings were: The right to vote and choose their own representatives to Parliament and that same Parliament whom you English elect, placed taxes on the colonists which they have no say about. They want the same rights and freedoms as they have bestowed on them. Black came back with the fact in his mind at least that the members of Parliament have the best interest of those they govern at heart. “You are like children and the Parliament like a distant but caring, parent.” Depends on which side you are on!
If anyone knows Washington and how he would respond you would realize that his response was anything but what Black expected: “We’ve been treated as children for more than 150 years.” The rest you will have to learn when you read the responses of both on page 125.
Washington was imprisoned on the ship until he would arrive in London and placed in the Tower until his trial and sentencing.
Lord North wanted this to happen really fast and as you get to meet him and hear his views you realize that he cares little for justice and the upcoming trial but the chance for a guilty verdict and the charge is high treason. Colonel Abbot is the Ambassador of the Continental Congress of the American States and his job his to make sure that Washington is not abused, taken care of and represented by a high powered lawyer. However, Washington is in the Tower and his requests to see him are stalled until North deems it possible. Abbot wants a lawyer named Burke but Washington chooses Abraham Hobshouse instead. Abbott is smart, wise and plays a vital role in the final outcome of what happens to General Washington. Wanting to demand of the gaoler to see Washington, a messenger arrive with a note from Mrs. Stevenson stating that a friend of both Dr. Franklin and Mr. Burke was a friend of hers and he might be able to see Washington that afternoon. Getting to know Washington and hearing his viewpoints and views makes the story come to life and Washington brought back into our lives again. Things spiral in different directions but something happens that creates more dissent and danger as a group called the Father’s of Liberty blew up a navy ship, HMS Lightning, a bomb ship which explodes in New York Harbor. The gunpowder room exploded, destroyed this ship and at least hundred on the bomb ship and many more on the docks. Within the hour, flyers asserted that they were responsible and it was in response to Washington’s kidnapping. The navy did not know and a confidential source, pro-patriot newspaper somehow got hold of uniforms that matched the crew of the ship and pretended to be drunken sailors. They supposedly killed the men guarding the room and then the mass explosion. North when you hear his views has mixed ones.
Compromises are in the words and although he’s advised to accept Washington will not allow himself to sign a document that does not give the American colonies their independence which is their right. Plus, he has decided as you hear the judges words, the Attorney General’s case that the final remarks just might be his. Washington wants to stand up for himself and the end result will be whatever the jury decides.
The legal system at this time was very different even from that of the ones adhered to by those living in America and therefore the judge explains that the Attorney General for the Commonwealth does not have to disclose their witnesses in advance.
April 16, 1781 will go down in history in this book as the start of the events leading up to the trial which is quite compelling, enlightening allowing readers to get a first hand experience of how justice was enacted. North is shrewd and cunning and the stakes are high for both sides but North thinks his plan will win. When Washington arrives and is going to be placed in the Tower, North hides and does not want to be seen wanting to see the reception Washington receives.
Although Hobhouse is a great lawyer he explains to Washington that Lord North himself told him the if he publically supported the various terms-border and troops and trade upon which the government and the American delegation, led by Abbott, have so far tentatively agreed, they will dismiss the indictment subject to being refiled if things do not work out. Certain other consideratiosn would be allowed but Washington’s answer will help readers understand the gravity of having the balance of independence of the United States on trial along with him too.
The many witness do not really add much to the British side and as the author relates through Washington some of the dates and facts are off but it is difficult to refute some of their testimony. Then the shocker comes when Benedict Arnold, traitor to the United States takes the stand and his testimony will readers as the truth behind his actions come to light and you the reader will learn the gravity of what Arnold relates and know that he is a traitor to all that the America stood for and stands for now.
Creating a backdrop for what is to come we meet several characters who are determined along with North and the King to make sure that Washington pays for what they feel are his crimes. The trial is quite short and the final outcome will not surprise readers as in the case for treason you rarely get an acquittal and the jury deliberations are not even an hour. Do they deliberate or are they prone to just say guilty?
The author reminds us that General Gordon and his defeat at Cowpens and states he was set free. I felt at times that Washington was alive and in that courtroom helping to control his own defense and able to confer with his lawyer through quiet words and gestures. But, the Chief Justice although he ran a pretty solid and honest court, was not the one to make the final decision. Washington was bent on having it his way and would not compromise his values or beliefs even if it meant being executed.
The final scenes are quite revealing as author Charles Rosenberg creates his own historical moment and the reader wonders what will be the fate of George Washington. Loyalties are created while others are broken and someone on the other side has to make a choice. Black finds himself in a quandary needing to make sure that the execution happens while others prepare for the inevitable but the final accounting and the final outcome will be revealed to you, the reader only if you read this outstanding fiction/nonfiction novel The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ network/MJ magazine