Was the American Revolution Inevitable?
By 1776, the colonists had declared themselves independent and in 1783, following a prolonged and bloody war, Britain was forced to recognise the independence of the United States.
Was American independence inevitable?Some historians have suggested that the British army mismanaged the American War of Independence and that the war could have been won.
On the contrary, the war was lost on its first day, owing not to 'inevitability' but to the nature of the conflict.
The fundamental difference between the British and the rebellious Americans concerned political authority.
Prior to the Stamp Act crisis British authority, rarely asserted, rested on ties of loyalty, affection and tradition, not force.
In the wake of the Stamp Act, Parliament repeatedly asserted its sovereignty and was compelled by American resistance to back down.
Each time that this occurred the foundation for British rule in America eroded a little bit more.When Parliament sought to re-establish its sovereignty by force it undermined the loyalty, affection and tradition upon which that authority had rested.
Indeed, between one-fifth and one-third of the colonists remained loyal to the crown once the war broke out.
Many of these, however, switched allegiances to the rebels when they experienced or learned of the heavy-handed tactics employed by the British army in America.
Had the British managed to 'win' the military conflict they would have had to resort to a degree of force antithetical to their ultimate objective - the reestablishment of British authority in the colonies.Had American independence not been inevitable then a political settlement would have been found between 1765 and 1775.
It was not.
In fairness to the imperial administrators and politicians who 'lost' the colonies, they were confronting an unprecedented political, economic and diplomatic challenge in seeking to govern the empire and balance the books in the aftermath of the Seven Years' War.
They handled the issue of American taxation in a relatively clumsy manner, but they learned their lesson.In 1776 the English radical Thomas Paine argued that the colonies should declare themselves independent because 'there is something very absurd, in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island'.
During the nineteenth century the island in question would come to rule a large portion of the world.
Its leaders would never again attempt to impose direct taxes on its colonies.