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 The American War of Independence

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shivfan
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PostSubject: The American War of Independence   Fri 04 May 2012, 13:19

It seems to me that a lot of American youngsters learn that this war is about freedom-loving Americans fighting for their rights against evil British tyrants, in the form of the oppressive George.

But the more I read about this War, the more I'm convinced that it was really a civil war, between American Patriots and American Loyalists, with the British obviously coming down on the side of the Loyalists....

Any thoughts?
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sat 05 May 2012, 20:45

I'm inclined to agree. I remember reading (in an article in BBC History magazine, I think) that approximately 40% of Americans under arms during the War were Loyalists. Furthermore, the Anglo-American history High Bicheno has argued that early on, before the war started, that the majority of Americans were pretty lukewarm towards the Patriots' ideals and it was a hardcore of fanatical Patriots who deliberately whipped them up into a frenzy. He has also, IIRC, argued that the Patriots deliberately provoked the British into hostile action at Lexington and Concord.

Mel Gibson's The Patriot has been widely (and justly) labasted for its take on history. However, it is not wholly without truth. The War could be unusually brutal, but it was not the British who were responsible for the worst of it - the most vicious incidents were generally between Patriots and Loyalists.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Fri 01 Jun 2012, 14:30

On that thread, Anglo-Norman, it does seem that Lord Dunmore's proclamation that any black slave fighting on the side of the British backfired. It seems that quite a few Southerners were suspicious of those Northern Patriots and their ideals. But when Dunmore offered to free their slaves, that proclamation forced the Southerners off their fence, and into the camp of the Patriots.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Fri 01 Jun 2012, 15:31

Benjamin Franklin supposedly worked as an informer (Agent 72 ) for the British, when he was Ambassador in Paris. If this is true, then we have to question the level of commitment to the Patriot cause of a very senior figure in the American Government.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Mon 04 Jun 2012, 08:27

I think the 'Independence' people were a minority, who made a lot of noise, and the British (much as they did in Ireland in 1916) handled it badly, so they grew in importance. Of course, when they won, (same as Ireland after 1922) everyone had been a 'freedom fighter'!
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sat 30 Jun 2012, 13:21

There is a view that the 'American Revolution' (as known in the US), or the 'American War of Independence' (as known in the UK) should really be called the War of American Independence.

In other words it could be seen as being just another war in the long line of wars between the European powers in the Eighteenth Century such as the War of the Spanish Succession and the War of the Austrian Succession etc. Only in this case the casus belli wasn't 'the Spanish Succession' or 'the Austrian Succession' but was 'American Independence'.

In many respects the War of American Independence was pay-back time on Great Britain by France (and Spain!) for the Seven Years War the previous decade.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sat 30 Jun 2012, 19:06

@Vizzer wrote:
In many respects the War of American Independence was pay-back time on Great Britain by France (and Spain!) for the Seven Years War the previous decade.

Indeed - and that backfired on the French. The financial strain - and I daresay the success of the rebels - were among the sparks for the French Revolution. I do wonder if without the help of their European allies, the Patriots could actually have defeated Britain.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 01 Jul 2012, 12:46

Apart from France, the direct and indirect help which the Patriots also received from Spain and the Netherlands was considerable.

With regard to the Netherlands then (unlike with the case of France and Spain) it was actually the UK which declared war on the Netherlands Republic. It was a pre-emptive strike by the British as the Netherlands were (understandably) beginning to complain about to interference with the Republic's shipping by the UK navy. And so the Netherlands was about to take formal action. The British-Netherlands War (1780-84) was contemporaneous to the War of American Independence although was not actually a part of it. The Netherlands Republic, for example, did not enter into any formal alliance with the American Congress.

The case of Spain is also of interest. Spain did indeed declare war on Britain (in 1779) and subsequently inflicted defeat after defeat on UK forces in Louisiana and the Floridas culminating with the surrender of British forces at Pensacola in 1781. This episode of the War of Independence seems to have been played down by both UK and US historians. The reason would seem to be that UK historians find it embarrassing that Spain (a supposedly spent force at the time) could have mounted such a successful campaign resulting in such a humiliation of the British army. US historians on the other hand would seem to like to play down the aid the Patriots received from the European powers (France and Spain) as this would undermine the case that the war was a 'national revolution' rather than the Patriots just being so many pawns of the great powers in a wider European conflict.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 01 Jul 2012, 13:44

Another aspect underplayed by historians is the role black people played in this War. Black people made up about 20% of the American colonial population at the time, though most of them were slaves. But their status as property was turned on its head when Lord Dunmore offered them freedom in return for their assistance in fighting on the colonial side. As a result, hundreds of Black Pioneers fought on the side of the Loyalists, while thousands more assisted with support services.

American historians don't discuss this issue much, because its hard to explain that the Founding Fathers were fighting to maintain their blacks in slavery, while the evil tyrants oppressing them were curiously giving black people their freedom if they fought on their side.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 01 Jul 2012, 14:56

The war was a triumph for the British! A group of British colonists led by a British general defeated a load of German mercenaries led by a German king. That at least was what I commented to a group of senior USAFE officers at RAF Mildenhall.

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 01 Jul 2012, 23:02

@shivfan wrote:
But their status as property was turned on its head when Lord Dunmore offered them freedom in return for their assistance in fighting on the colonial side.
It's striking in the 1977 television series Roots, for example, how the American Revolution basically passes the slaves by. Nothing really changes for them before or after that war.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Tue 10 Jul 2012, 08:02

@Anglo-Norman wrote:
@Vizzer wrote:
In many respects the War of American Independence was pay-back time on Great Britain by France (and Spain!) for the Seven Years War the previous decade.

Indeed - and that backfired on the French. The financial strain - and I daresay the success of the rebels - were among the sparks for the French Revolution.

.... well said both of you, but these facts are all too readily ignored by many Americans today who would rather subscribe to the simplistic Mel Gibson version of history.

Incidentally here in the town of Port Vendres there is one of the few remaining monuments in France to Louis XVI which was erected during his reign and survived the revolution. (Port Vendres is on the French Mediterranean coast only about 20km from the Spanish border, it's original harbour was known to the Romans as Portus Veneris, but it was only developed as a deep water port and naval base in the late 1770s). The monument praises the great achievements of Louis XVI's reign in four bronze panels around the base of a 30m high obeslisk. The panels depict: American independence; the abolition of serfdom throughout France; free trade; the expansion of the French navy. All these are set in a global context by allegorical scuptures at the corners which represent the four, then known, continents.

I am rather reminded of a point made by AJP Taylor in one of his televised lectures... that he considered the war of 1914/18 to be the second "world war"... the first being the conflicts, primarily between Britain and France, in the late 18th/early 19th century. Taken as a whole this earlier series of conflicts were truly global in extent ranging from French support for the American Revolution, through the Maratha Wars in India, various skirmishes at sea and in foreign lands, and culminating in the great European-wide Napoleonic Wars. That this worldwide conflict started while France was a monarchy, continued through the revolution, and ended when France was a republican empire was irrelevant since French foreign policy and the raison d'être for the successive wars remained basically unchanged. As I recall, Taylor's thesis was that this "first" world war closely resembled the later two global conflicts in that they were all, in his view, about securing dominance over world-wide resources and gaining control of the global economy. Which is an interesting point when one remembers that neither Australia nor Antarctica were really known of at the time .... hence only four continents are depicted on Louis' monument in Port Vendres.

And it is most definitely not by coincidence that Port Vendres is twinned with Yorktown in Virginia.

Louis XVI's monument in Port Vendres - topped with a Bourbon fleur-de-lys sitting on a globe of the world:

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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Tue 10 Jul 2012, 23:52

A friend of mine once wrote an interesting thesis which divided Britain's wars into two categories - the wars conducted for colonial expansion purposes and (by far the larger category) the war (singular) it fought against colonial secession. To place America, Ireland and India in the context of one almost unbroken series of aggressive conflicts put certain hitherto historical anomalies into an interesting and - dare I say it as an Irishman - logical perspective.

One interesting aspect was the friends that secessionists tended to acquire. They show remarkable consistency.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Wed 11 Jul 2012, 00:38

Removed post having read a full text of the Cameron/Hollande encounter. Have also seen D. Mail account that dwells more on comparing their heights; physical that is, not political. Just out of interest, who sided with French colony succesionists at their independence?
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Wed 11 Jul 2012, 20:20

I am not sure I agree nordmann, I would have said that the wars of expansion were far larger (however one chooses to measure it) than what one could class as the war (sic) of containment. Where would the two world wars fit into that classification too?

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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Thu 12 Jul 2012, 01:05

That's because you fail to shift your perspective from the conventional imperialist definition of what war is and who decides to have it. If I were to tell you that there are five million people not too far from where you live who genuinely believe there was a 600 year war against your country you would probably have difficulty identifying the nation concerned.

WWI and WWII were both in different ways sparked, driven by or resulted in quite a lot of colonial secessionism. For some people they therefore represented culminations of much older wars which had been sustained throughout generations against imperial aggressors.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Thu 12 Jul 2012, 10:27

How do you know that my perspective is that of a 'conventional imperialist definition of what war is'? perhaps I am just correct and you are wrong!
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sat 14 Jul 2012, 08:53

It's not a question of right and wrong, it's a question of different perspectives and how they can equally apply to the same circumstances. What you call a "war of expansion", for example, is someone else's war of enforced reduction, at least in terms of what typifies its progress. And what motivates boundary and control expansion on the part of one political entity at the expense of another is equally subject to the application of different perspectives. What both perspectives have in common is that the antagonists on both sides in these conflicts often apply the same basic justification for their stance, namely one relating to survival - be it of a national identity, a perceived superiority in cultural values, or simply suvival at an intrinsic and individual level socially. The thesis in question examined conventional history (the imperialist model which we have largely inherited as a method of classification of historical events) and reassessed these events in terms of secessionist principles. What emerged was a rather intriguing continuity, both in terms of interlinked causal circumstances which are normally viewed as separate and independent historical developments, and in terms of the underlying social philosophy which facilitates the graduation from secessionist aspiration to conflict.

Both perspectives are equally valid, I would suggest, and in fact could even be viewed as complementary in that each addresses political motivations and explanations for human behaviour which the other does not.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 15 Jul 2012, 02:29

@Priscilla wrote:
Just out of interest, who sided with French colony succesionists at their independence?
For a great imperial power, France had relatively few colonists as such. Those few which they did have were located mainly in North America - in Quebec and Louisiana. Neither was there ever a genuine independence movement among them. In fact their fate was decided not by themselves but by events in Europe. The Quebecois, for example, came under British sovereignty in Canada following the Seven Years War while the Louisianans came under US sovereignty following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 when Napoleon Bonaparte was strapped for cash pending another European war.

Other French colonists were to be found in North Africa (Algeria) but - again - they didn't see themselves as independent (or desiring independence) from the metropolitan hexagon. In fact Algeria became integrated into the French state as overseas departments at an early stage (1848) and the French colonists there were also generally and greatly opposed to the Algerian independence movement in the 1960s.

There were other overseas territories of France where there were few colonial settlers and the story of who helped the independence movements in those territories is varied. During the Second World War, for example, the UK sought to oust the Vichy French from France's overseas territories and replace them with Free French forces. This met with varying success. There was a humiliating defeat for UK forces when they tried to invade Dakar in Senegal in 1940. The Vichy Forces in West and North Africa beat them back and even managed to launch an air raid on Gibraltar in reprisal. The Allies met with more success, however, in Madagascar in 1942 when the Vichy French were dislodged after a fierce battle at Diego Suarez.

The following year (1943) Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean switched allegiance from Vichy to the Free French following US diplomatic pressure. The Hollywood movie 'To Have And Have Not' starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (made immediately afterwards) was based on this episode.

In Asia, French Indochina was attacked by Thailand in 1940 and (cut off from Europe as they were) the Vichy forces managed to give the Thais a bloody nose, fighting them to a standstill in 1941 when both sides agreed to Japanese mediation. Japanese mediation, however, came with strings attached which included French agreement to the stationing of Japanese military bases in Vietnam. This proved a poison chalice for the French in Indochina as these Japanese troops immediately mounted a coup-de-force against the French and effectively took over the country for the rest of the war.

After the Second World War the main aid for independence movements in the French overseas territories came from the Soviet Union and China. In Algeria there is also evidence to suggest that the FLN received support against France not only from the Soviet Union but also from the US in an echo of the Suez War in Egypt 5 years earlier. And somewhat ironically the US had also played a role in encouraging France to quit Indochina in the 1950s. Needless to say that the US would then themselves come unstuck when trying to run South Vietnam after the French had left.

All in all, therefore, a mixed yet fascinating story.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 12:55

'If I were to tell you that there are five million people not too far from where you live who genuinely believe there was a 600 year war against your country you would probably have difficulty identifying the nation concerned.'

The Welsh or the Scots?

And how do the Norwegians view their rule by first the Danes and then the Swedes? Especially in 1814 when they were handed over as a goody to the Swedes for ending up on the winning side.

The trouble is that a phrase such as "conventional imperialist definition of what war is" immediately makes be think of a 1970s 'fellow traveller'. Mind you, possibly you were a 1970s fellow traveller!
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 13:10

The Cornish of course!

Why do I suspect that these 1970s "fellow travellers" are a dubious bunch? Mind you, I did a fair bit of travelling in the 70s right enough!

Norwegian attitude towards Danish ownership veers from the viewpoint that it was self-inflicted (they claim to have kick started the Danish kings) to that it was the worst example of unjustified and vicious colonialism ever. I'm tired telling them that neither is true (and that Norway wasn't even a land until Denmark invented it, it was a Hanseatic trade route). The Swedish thing they just rate as embarrassing. They were all geared up in 1814 with a spanking new constitution to go it alone but then had to endure another 90 years of being owned by someone else. It is also a source of some shame, I've noticed, that in the end they didn't even have to fight to get their own country. They simply walked out of the arrangement - and probably could have for several decades prior to when they did so. One of their "Doh!" moments.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 17:23

Cornwall has a population of 500,000 not 5 million and I think their battle against the English goes back longer than 600 years.

Chris Morris' wife on Jiglu is a descendant of Thomas Flamank, one of leaders of the Cornish uprising of 1497 that ended in defeat at Blackheath.

Thanks for that on Norway.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 21:51

@nordmann wrote:
If I were to tell you that there are five million people not too far from where you live who genuinely believe there was a 600 year war against your country you would probably have difficulty identifying the nation concerned.
This is intriguing.

One would assume that it's a reference to Ireland. However - Irish nationalists tend to talk in terms of "800 years" (rather than 600 years) so I suspect that this is a cunningly set trap.

So I'll guess at Norway. And if that's true then the confirmation (and explanation!) will be intriguing indeed.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Thu 19 Jul 2012, 10:47

The Irish have to decide between opting for 800 years or claiming that the Normans became "more Irish than the Irish themselves". They can't have it both ways. I tend to allow that the Normans went native and adjust the number accordingly - though as far as I can make out this is a matter of purely personal preference in Ireland. Some people even claim that the number is still rising!

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sat 21 Jul 2012, 18:16

When I was last in the Irish Republic, which was a good few years ago, I noticed that at Irish historical sites they continued to refer to the 'English' as Normans long after the term Norman would be used in English history. It only seemed to be with the reign of Henry VIII that the 'English' were referred to as English.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sat 21 Jul 2012, 18:30

This is probably due to the fact that the first of them to arrive were disaffected Normans based in Wales who had an uneasy relationship with the English crown. They themselves did not refer to themselves as English and pretty soon in fact called themselves Irish. In 1366 and the passing of the Statutes of Kilkenny even the English called them Hiberno-Normans.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 22 Jul 2012, 14:22

Re the '600 year war' thing.

Is the answer the Cornish or the Irish or another country? It's not clear.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 22 Jul 2012, 14:41

Hi Vizzer - Sorry, thought I'd made it clear. The turning point between when the Irish-based bigwigs saw England as a potential recruiting ground for their own internal ambitions and when they were suddenly having to deal with someone intent on taking them over is a moot point. I place it around 600 years before some form of political independence was reclaimed in Ireland. Others prefer the perfidy (as in Albion) option when calculating the duration.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 22 Jul 2012, 15:40

Which, in a way, brings it back to the context of the American War of Independence and the original point about the identification of one's enemy.

In Ireland, as had happened with the Norse settlements, the Gaelic Irish found themselves both enemies and allies of the new guys, at least as long as the new guys had power and arms enough to have a say. The Normans found themselves, once they had established power bases, as prone to this pattern as the natives, and much of the warfare in Ireland in the next two hundred years was started by divisions - real and manufactured - within that broader community, with hardly a reference to England at all. Yet by the time of the Statutes of Kilkenny the English crown could use all these past conflicts as evidence of antagonism towards crown dominion, a sort of back-dated reassessment of what had been going on which suited the English king at the time.

In the same way it would be interesting to enumerate just how many colonists in America were taking up arms, at least at the beginning, with a long term view of developing a new independent continental power. There are shades of independence - just which shade did each man subscribe to? That it should be seen however as a straight "war of independence" in the traditional sense suited both Britain and a select few American antagonists from the off. So that's the version we were bound to be saddled with in conventional histories of the period.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 22 Jul 2012, 15:57

Thanks Nordmann. That makes sense.

Re historic sites in Ireland differentiating between 'Normans' and 'English'. When I was at the Ulster Museum in Belfast I was surprised at how some of the sections were quite ambiguous or even slap-dash in this regard. There's this for example:

'The coming of the Normans in 1169 began the English settlement of Ireland.'

It's certainly a difficult issue to unpick. I reckon that the 'personal union' of the Crown of Ireland with the Crown of England in 1541 is probably the root cause of the problem. Rather than clarifying Ireland's relationship vis-a-vis England it seems to have had the effect of further blurring the distinction. This in turn has influenced popular perceptions of Anglo-Irish issues both before and since.
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 22 Jul 2012, 16:05

The English claim was certainly back-dated to Strongbow later, and guys like deCourcy certainly swore fealty to the English crown and probably meant it. But one only has to look at the two great Fitzgerald septs - Kildare and Desmond - to see all the shades of "fealty" this implied, and how light that shade became quite rapidly.

The important bit about the early guys is that they were not sent to win the land for England. They were a bunch of potential troublemakers that Henry was glad to see the back of. They could dress up their adventure any way they liked, including doing it all is in his honour (yeah, right!), as long as they didn't come back!
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PostSubject: Re: The American War of Independence   Sun 22 Jul 2012, 17:03

nordmann

returning to your


'If I were to tell you that there are five million people not too far from where you live who genuinely believe there was a 600 year war against your country you would probably have difficulty identifying the nation concerned.'

Why the difficulty in identifying Ireland?

Ireland seemed so obvious to me, although 600 years was a bit arguable, that I threw in the Scots (c 5 million and voting for independence - pity the English don't get a vote on it) and the Welsh (bit smaller population). Given the convoluted way your mind works on many topics, your alternative explanation for the 'existence of Jesus was a classic', that it seemed it could not be the Irish but some other nation for some obscure reason! Denmark also has a population around 5 million, but I could think of no way that the Danes could think they had been at war with England/Britain for 600 years.

regards

Tim
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