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"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."

Far too many people give up on their plans and dreams when faced by one or two obstacles. Shakespeare got it right!

" [John Watson writes].... Some of these obstacles are purely imaginary. A classic example of this can be found in the life of the legendary rebel, Bonnie Prince Charlie.

On the 4th December 1745, Prince Charlie and about five thousand Jacobite Highlanders reached Derby, a hundred and thirty miles north of London, the centre of the Hanoverian monarchy of George II.

They had heavily defeated Government troops at the battle of Prestonpans and were marching on London with hardly any opposition at all.

A War Council was held. Some, like Charles, were for pressing on to London but others, like his senior commander George Murray, wanted to return to Scotland.

Murray had some good reasons on his side. The Jacobites had not been joined by new recruits and there was no sign of a supporting French army arriving in the South of England as had been promised.

A key interruption to the meeting then took place. A government spy called Dudley Bradstreet, with impeccable Jacobite credentials, arrived and announced that a government army of 9000 men was blocking the path to London.

This was a lie! No such army existed. King George II was already packing his bags to leave for Hanover. In addition, a French invasion in support of Charles was on the brink of crossing the channel. Victory was imminent.

But the council were intimidated by the imaginary obstacle and managed to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. They had 5000 men but imagined that they were facing 9000.

Charles, to his credit, still wanted to press on but he was outvoted and, burning with resentment, had to agree that his army return to Scotland.

The Jacobites had missed a great chance to restore the house of Stuart as monarchs of a United Kingdom. The momentum of the rebellion was lost and in April 1746 the Jacobites were defeated at Culloden far to the north near Inverness. The rebellion was put down mercilessly.

Charles was never betrayed by his Scots followers and managed to escape from Scotland in Sept 1746. He spent the rest of his life in Europe a disillusioned and embittered man. He died in Rome many years later. His story is immortalized in Scottish poetry and music but his life remains a romantic dream.

However, his dream could have so easily become a miraculous reality. His generals are more to blame than he is. However, they are not alone in their failure to ignore or at least check out an imaginary difficulty.

Many dreamers give up at ‘Derby’ because of some imaginary obstacle.

If these dreamers had only kept going they would have found out that the difficulties were imaginary ones or could have been overcome with a little more knowledge or a little more effort. They think they are facing 9000 difficulties but are only facing one - their own fear and lack of confidence.

Charles and his generals could have sent out scouts to check out the ‘army’ of 9000 men but fear tends to cause panic and paralysis and lack of common sense.

Looking back on my own life so far, I hate to think of the number of opportunities I have missed because of giving up at the first or second obstacle or the first or second failure".

P.S. The Trustees of the then newly-established Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Heritage Trust met in Derby in December 2006, in the self-same Exeter Room where the Prince held that War Council, and reversed that decision!

click to enlarge

Robert Louis Stevenson offers:
"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."

Peter F. Drucker wisely too:
"The best way to predict the future is to create it".

Published Date: August 10th 2008

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