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    Wes Frank
    Masters in American History from Northwestern UniversityOct 21

    After Britain’s defeat in the American Revolutionary War, did Britain
    ever plan another invasion to take back the lost colony or did they
    consider the defeat final?
    By the end of the War of the American Revolution, the British leaders
    who had grimly pursued the attempt to reconquer the Thirteen Colonies by
    force were discredited and driven from power. The new generation of
    British leaders that replaced them comprehended that the task of
    conquering and subduing a nation of two million free citizens on the
    farther side of an ocean was simply beyond British resources.

    Veteran British military officers supported this view:

    In one of the first published histories of the American War of
    Independence by a British army officer, Charles Stedman wrote that “men
    were obliged to conclude, either that a force of Great Britain was ill-directed, or that no invading army, in the present enlightened
    period, can be successful in a country where the people are tolerably united.” Although critical of some of the decisions of the commanders,
    he argued that the experience of the southern campaign had demonstrated
    as “a fact beyond all contradiction” that the war was unwinnable. He recalled the process of subduing Georgia and South Carolina. He
    remembered when “the British commanders in those provinces had been
    uniformly successful in all general actions they fought, and had not in
    a single instance been defeated,” yet their successes achieved nothing
    but the retention of Savannah and Charleston, which “facts naturally led
    to this inference, that it was madness to persist in an expensive war,
    in which even success failed to produce its natural consequences.”

    O'Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson. The Men Who Lost America: British
    Leadership, the American Revolution and the Fate of the Empire. Yale
    University Press.

    Something like a fifth of the British trading economy had been tied up
    in what was now the United States in 1775 and a fifth of all British
    ships were built in American yards before the war. A lot of that market
    could be reclaimed through peaceful trade. The new American nation was
    not interested in European power politics, so it was not going to be
    allying with France or Spain in the near future. The colonials had
    contributed a share of the British armies that had served in the wars
    with France and Spain in the Caribbean, but that could be worked around.
    The hope of some British thinkers, like James Burke, that the North
    American empire would provided a trans-Atlantic source of manpower and resources on the scale of the Spanish and Portuguese empires was dashed,
    but Britain had other assets and retained its priceless advantage of
    being able to tap into European wealth while avoiding being a
    battleground for European wars.

    The future of the British Empire lay in India and Africa, where
    provinces of peasant farmers and pastoralists used to being ruled by
    monarchs and chieftains could be subdued by a small British army and
    rational administration. If conquest could be done at reasonable cost,
    British industry would the true engine of British wealth, one that would
    anchor imperial growth around the world for another century without
    serious competition.

    Whenever British leaders faced the issue of dealing with a large,
    educated population with governing structures comparable to Britain’s,
    as in China or Japan, they settled for trade advantages rather then
    direct rule. When they created strong middle-class setter colonies like
    they had once created in North America, as in Canada, Australia, and
    South Africa, they allowed local self-rule. And, of course, when, in the
    20th Century, India and the British Asian and African colonies created
    modern societies on the same model, the British Empire had to concede
    the same to them.

    9.9K viewsView 79 upvotes
    29 comments from
    Dave Hiatt
    and more

    Dave Hiatt
    · October 23
    It was, much like the US in Vietnam. The rebellion in North America did
    NOT have a military solution, the issues were political. But the
    politician’s were unable / unwilling to recognize that THEY had to do
    the hard work, so they just threw the ball over the wall to the military
    and said “fix it”.

    This was an impossible task. As you point out, even in the South which
    was more amenable to staying in a union with Britain, Cornwallis learned
    simply marching through the countryside and winning battles did not
    pacify it. The locals just waited, let the Army pass, and they picked
    off the stragglers and supply trains.

    You can win all the individual and tactical engagements and still be
    losing the war, because the “war” is about political issues not specific military deployments.

    The US encountered the same thing in Vietnam, the US Army could take any
    ground it wanted and hold it for as long as it wanted. But to what end?
    When it left, everything went back to the way it was. The Vietnam War
    and the American Revolution did not have military solutions so were by definition “unwinnable” in a military sense.

    The military can help create conditions that can allow the politicians
    to work hard at addressing the issues, but the real effort has to come
    from the politicians realizing this is they problem not the military’s. Without that, nothing is going to work.

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    Profile photo for David Jacques
    David Jacques
    · November 7
    All hostilities have political origins. The statement that they have no military solutions is incomplete. The full version is that the military solution would be unacceptable by modern standards. Examples are what
    the Romans did to the Picts near Hadrian’s Wll and to Carthage.

    Profile photo for Wes Frank

    David Jacques
    · November 2
    You’re making generalisations that are quite obviously nonsense. Not an objective view of history. Britain went to war with China, as even a US
    history graduate ought to know. There was never any chance Britain could
    retain mastery of a continent with its relatively tiny army and the
    country's top generals told George III so. Carleton in Canada stayed out
    of it as far as he could. GIII managed to get Lord North to do his
    bidding even though his lordship disliked government and everything to
    do with it. Britain won the battles but lost the war - like the US in
    Vietnam and Afghanistan. For the rest of your remarks - the flag
    followed trade, not vice versa. Britain used its own wealth, not
    European wealth, in creating its empire. Britain had far better
    financial mechanisms and policies than e.g. France, which is why Britain
    was always able to come out on top against that much larger nation. At
    the time the global war - it could in many ways be considered a world
    war - was considered an unmitigated British victory. The only aspect of
    war Britain always had to win was the naval and Britain virtually
    obliterated the French fleet that made the Yorktown surrender
    inevitable. The sugar islands were in any event considered much more
    important by al parties except the American colonists.

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    Wes Frank
    · November 2
    “At the time the global war was considered an unmitigated British victory.”

    By whom? The ministers responsible for the war were forced out of
    office. George III threatened to abdicate from the disgrace of losing
    the war. His emotional health never recovered from the disaster. When he
    was old and senile and confined, witnesses heard him would having
    discussions with Lord North over strategy in the American war.

    The “victorious” monarch in 1782:

    When he was finally forced to yield to American independence, George III drafted a letter of abdication to Parliament. Claiming that all his difficulties in America had arisen from “his scrupulous attachment to
    the Rights of Parliament,” he spoke of his devotion to the British Constitution. He complained of the “sudden change in Sentiments” in what
    he pointedly referred to as “one Branch of the Legislature,” which had “totally incapacitated Him from either conducting the War with effect,
    or from obtaining any Peace but on conditions which would prove
    destructive to the Commerce as well as essential Rights of the British Nation.” With much sorrow, he announced that he found that he could be
    of no further utility to his country, which had driven him “to the
    painful step of quitting it for ever.” He therefore resigned “the Crown
    of Great Britain and the Dominions appertaining thereto to His Dearly
    Beloved Son and lawful Successor, George Prince of Wales,” who he hoped
    might be more successful in his endeavors for the prosperity of the
    British Empire.” His letter of abdication was never submitted.

    On December 5, 1782, George III had to give a speech to Parliament acknowledging the independence of the United States of America. As he
    read the word “independent,” his voice was “constrained.” According to Elkanah Watson, a young American merchant, George III “hesitated” and “choked” over the words “free and independent states” but otherwise delivered the speech with “ill grace.” George III spoke candidly of
    having sacrificed his own wishes to the opinion of his people. Although sympathetic to him, Nathaniel Wraxall described the speech as “among the
    most singular compositions ever put in the mouth of a British
    sovereign.” It included passages more suitable to the spirit and
    language of a moralist or a sage than of a monarch. It had a kind of
    invocation or prayer in the middle in which George III implored divine intervention to avert the calamities that might befall the former
    colonies in consequence of their becoming independent states and
    repudiating monarchical power. Wraxall wrote that the speech was the
    subject of mirth and satire, while Edmund Burke called it
    “insufferable.” The personal blow of conceding independence was made
    more tragic by the death of George III’s favorite son, the four-year-old Octavius.70

    O'Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson. The Men Who Lost America:. Yale
    University Press.

    David Jacques
    · November 2
    By everyone except the Americans. Well, of course, They were as boastful
    then as they are now.

    GIII was suffering from porphyria so his views have to be taken with a
    pinch of salt

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    Wes Frank
    · November 2
    George III was only twenty-seven years old when the American crisis
    began in 1765. He was thirty-seven and in robust good health when the
    war began and did not suffer an porphyria until 1788, five years after
    it ended.

    You don’t actually know anything about this topic, do you?

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