In part the deterioration of relations between Britain and her American colonies - which eventually led to the War of Independence - stemmed from a logical British attempt to make the colonies contribute more to the cost of their own defence. It was also partly the result of the desire of some successful merchants in the colonies to break free of controls imposed by the pro-British elite, and from British political miscalculations that saw foreign policy oscillate between harshness and surrender. Another factor was the work of radical politicians and propagandists - such as Sam Adams and Paul Revere - who envisaged a break with Britain when many of their countrymen still hoped that it might be avoided.
The descent into armed conflict between patriot (anti-British) and loyalist (pro-British) sympathisers was gradual. Events like the Boston 'Massacre' of 1770, when British troops fired on a mob that had attacked a British sentry outside Boston's State House, and the Boston 'tea-party' of 1773, when British-taxed tea was thrown into the harbour, marked the downward steps. Less obvious was the take-over of the colonial militias - which had initially been formed to provide local defence against the French and the Native Americans - by officers in sympathy the the American patrios/rebels, rather than by those in sympathy with pro-British loyalists/Tories.
The Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government. On December 16, 1773, after officials in Boston refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, a group of colonists boarded the ships and destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor. The incident remains an iconic event of American history, and reference is often made to it in other political protests.
On Thursday, December 16, 1773, the evening before the tea was due to be landed, on a signal given by Samuel Adams, the Sons of LibertyMohawk Indians, left the massive protest meeting and headed toward Griffin’s Wharf, where lay HMS thinly disguised as Dartmouth and her newly arrived, tea bearing, sister ships HMS Beaver and HMS Eleanour. Swiftly and efficiently, casks of tea were brought up from the hold to the deck, reasonable proof that some of the “Indians” were, in fact, longshoremen. The casks were opened and the tea dumped overboard; the work, lasting well into the night, was quick, thorough, and efficient. By dawn, 90,000 lbs (45 tons) of tea had been consigned to waters of Boston harbor. Nothing else had been damaged or stolen, except a single padlock accidentally broken and anonymously replaced not long thereafter. Tea washed up on the shores around Boston for weeks.
French involvement in the war made it possible for the colonies to defeat Britain
Historians have often sought to explain why Great Britain lost a war which few at the time expected them to lose. Britain had a number of military advantages at the outset: vastly superior naval power, a professional military (by 18th century standards), and far greater financial resources. Furthermore, the Americans often faced shortages of military supplies, and had a traditional distrust of central government and standing armies which made the maintenance of a national military force extremely difficult.
On the other hand, the British had significant military disadvantages. Distance was a major problem: most troops and supplies had to be shipped 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. The British usually had logistical problems whenever they operated away from port cities, while the Americans had local sources of manpower and food, and were more familiar with (and acclimated to) the territory. Additionally, ocean travel meant that British communications were always about two months out of date: by the time British generals in America received their orders from London, the military situation had usually changed.
Suppressing a rebellion in America also posed other problems. Since the colonies covered a large area and had not been united before the war, there was no central area of strategic importance. In Europe, the capture of a capital often meant the end of a war; in America, when the British seized cities such as New York and Philadelphia, the war continued unabated. Furthermore, the large size of the colonies meant that the British lacked the manpower to control them by force. Once any area had been occupied, troops had to be kept there or the Revolutionaries would regain control, and these troops were thus unavailable for further offensive operations. The British had sufficient troops to defeat the Americans on the battlefield, but not enough to simultaneously occupy the colonies. This manpower shortage became critical after French and Spanish entry into the war, because British troops had to be dispersed in several theaters, where previously they had been concentrated in America.
The British also had the difficult task of fighting the war while simultaneously retaining the allegiance of Loyalists. Loyalist support was important, since the goal of the war was to keep the colonies in the British Empire, but this imposed a number of military limitations. Early in the war, the Howe brothers served as peace commissioners while simultaneously conducting the war effort, a dual role which may have limited their effectiveness. Additionally, the British could have recruited more slaves and American Indians to fight the war, but this would have alienated many Loyalists, even more so than the controversial hiring of Germans. The need to retain Loyalist allegiance also meant that the British were unable to use the harsh methods of suppressing rebellion employed in Ireland and Scotland. Even with these limitations, many potentially neutral colonists were nonetheless driven into the ranks of the Revolutionaries because of the war.
The American militiamen were not well organized. They did have a new commander-in-chief, General George Washington. They did not have a standing army. There was no navy. Volunteers for the fighting were overconfident, and many lacked any military training. Despite these factors, some American fighters did have experience fighting in previous conflicts.
Another problem that confronted Americans during the American Revolution was that of Loyalists, those who chose to remain loyal to the mother country, and those who occasionally were British supporters. In 1780, the Americans suffered a major blow to their hopes when one of their heroes, General Benedict Arnold, joined the British army.
Sporadic fighting continued after Cornwallis surrendered in 1781. In March 1782, the British prime minister was replaced. Colonial negotiators began to assemble in Paris. Congress had given Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams instructions not to negotiate without the aid of the French, but these three men did not follow their orders. The French were eager to see their European rivals defeated, but also had hopes of keeping the Americans weakened, which would aid the Spanish, another French ally, with its own interests in North America. America would also serve as a strong overseas market and continual ally. The American delegates secretly opened negotiations with the British, and a temporary treaty was reached in 1782, but the final treaty came a year later. The new treaty recognized the colonies as being independent from British rule and established a normalization of relations that would lead eventually to a strong relationship of trust and coexistence.
--In 1755, in the midst of an election campaign for seats in the Virginia assembly, 23-year-old Colonel Washington said something insulting to a hot-tempered little fellow named Payne, who promptly knocked him down with a hickory stick. Soldiers rushed up to avenge Washington, who got to his feet just in time to tell them that he could take care of himself, thank you. The next day he wrote Payne a letter requesting an interview at a tavern. When Payne arrived, he naturally expected a demand for an apology and a challenge to a duel. Instead, Washington apologized for the insult that had provoked the blow, hoped that Payne was satisfied, and then generously offered his hand.