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Causes of the Revolutionary War

Indeed, in the constitutional disputes before the fighting began he urged moderation on his ministers, rather than encouraging them to take a hard line. In , George III disappointed the Americans by siding unambiguously with his government; but he saw the war as the struggle for the rights of parliament, not as an attempt to increase his own power.

A Short History of the American Revolution

The rhetoric of the revolution presented the Americans as staunch defenders of liberty and the British as a threat to that liberty. But for enslaved people in the colonies, it was the British who represented liberty, not the white Americans. In November , Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, offered freedom to enslaved people who helped him put down the rebellion.


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Thereafter, thousands of slaves flocked to the British lines throughout the war. Many were to be disappointed, but at least some secured their freedom.

11. The American Revolution

By mid-December, many British officers assumed that the rebellion was on the verge of collapse. But just after Christmas, Washington boldly counter-attacked, reviving American spirits and ensuring that the war continued.

Contemporaries blamed General Howe, the British commander, for not seizing the opportunity to crush the rebellion when he had the chance. Historians have been kinder, recognising that, even in the campaign, the British faced major logistical challenges supplying their army at such a distance from home, and that Howe had no wish to alienate Americans further by using brutal methods.

Economic Causes of the Revolutionary War

The conflict was more of a civil war than a conventional international contest. Estimates vary, but probably somewhere around a fifth of white colonists refused to accept a complete break with Britain. Many of them had supported resistance to the claims of the British parliament to tax the colonies, but they could not stomach a rejection of the link with the British crown.

Some of these loyalists took up arms on the British side, and many of them migrated to Canada at the end of the war, providing the basis for its Anglophone population. Less than a year after the fighting started, the French government decided to support the Americans. The rebels first received French arms and ammunition; these vital supplies were followed by large injections of cash, which continued throughout the war. The French became belligerents in , turning a war that had begun as a struggle in and for America into something much bigger.

Most importantly for the British, French intervention threatened the home territories with invasion. As the British redeployed their forces to meet the challenges of this wider war, their chances of recovering the rebel colonies diminished greatly.

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Read more:. French intervention was bad enough for the British, but their task became still more difficult when the Spanish entered the war as French allies in The French and Spanish fleets combined outgunned the Royal Navy. In the summer of , a Franco-Spanish armada controlled the Channel. Only disease on board the allied ships, and disagreements between the French and Spanish admirals, prevented an invasion. At the end of , the Dutch joined the conflict, too. While they posed little threat to the British on their own, their involvement extended the geographical range of the war even further, and so made the struggle in America still more of a secondary consideration for British politicians.

The American Revolution: A History by Gordon S. Wood

French intervention made the British position in America much more vulnerable. Until , the British army had been able to rely on the dominance of the Royal Navy.

The French Revolution - OverSimplified (Part 1)

British troops could be conveyed anywhere along the Atlantic coast of the colonies, and British generals had no need to fear for their extended Atlantic supply line. The Caribbean, a focus of some of the best recent works, is largely missing here. John Sullivan waged in Iroquoia during the summer of , a scorched-earth march involving one-third of the total Continental fighting force. They desecrated native graves, raped native women and mutilated native bodies for profit and for sport.

If war was hell, it was also gold. Hoock too often looks for glory in guts.

Ben Baack, Ohio State University

On this question Hoock presents tantalizing evidence all too quickly. He also offers a fascinating, brief broad-brush sketch of the ways Americans scrubbed their own revolutionary record, making all Americans into Patriots, and Patriots into warriors who bled but rarely bloodied.

But he has not fully plumbed the implications of this new origins story. But what, precisely, is its moral?