The American Revolution
There are several key reasons that combined to generate a victory for America in the American Revolution. First of all, the American troops, while composed primarily of untrained farmers, held the home-field advantage. They knew more about the terrain and the weather patterns of the colonies.
This enabled them to properly plan and counter strategic moves against the British. One of the primary reasons the British failed to quell the revolution was that the empire vastly underestimated the threat of the colonies. Britain felt that the war would be over in a matter of months and that the cost to Britain would be minimal. King George III even refused to see America’s final peace emissary. As the war progressed, British troops continued to underestimate the rebel troops and failed to take advantage of the many opportunities they had in battle (Ketchum, 234-246).
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Another reason that the British lost the war was that, although they had won many of the early battles, was that the British were more accustomed to military warfare: declared battles and open warfare. The American practiced a more guerilla-type warfare. They hid in trees and along trails, catching the British troops by surprise.
This undermined the British as they had no defense against it, thereby weakening their line of fight and weakening their battle plan (Boucher, 119). In addition to the type of battle America waged was the miscommunication among the British generals, particularly between Howe and Carleton: Howe believed that Carleton would be arriving to back him up but Carleton’s troops never showed. The British generals also depended on Tory support to fortify their troops, yet they only drew a few hundred supporters from America’s shores (Brown).
The final reason that America defeated Britain is the support provided by France. Throughout the war, France funneled supplies to America’s shores coordinated by the American emissary, Benjamin Franklin. When the tide turned in America’s favor after the Battle of Valley Forge and France began to believe that America had a chance to win the war, they sent troops and ships in support of the revolution.
This was the final blow for Britain as the combination of French and American troops and the French navy overwhelmed the dwindling British force. The British people were tired of the war and the expense it created for their country and the British monarchy still did not take the threat seriously (Ketchum, 214).
1. Describe details of the negotiations between England, France, and the American states that culminated in the treaty of Paris.
On September 3, 1783, three representatives of the colonies and one representative from England signed the Treaty of Paris with Britain to finalize their independence. There were many steps to this treaty that directly involved the colonies, France and Britain. Britain sought to divide that united forces of France and the colonies by signing separate peace treaties with each country. The United States agreed as they saw it as the best way to assure American independence. France was amenable to separate negotiations but wanted a united peace.
England also signed treaties with Spain and the Netherlands during the same period. The issues of main concern to the colonies were the recognition of the colonies’ united independence and the ability to expand westward and the treaty secured these interests (Ketchum, 304).
America’s victory at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 opened up talks of potential independence in the peace process. It was the first time that England took the idea of America’s independence seriously. The House of Parliament and the favor of the king control England and the powers that controlled England and the parliament was adamantly opposed to agreeing to concede America’s independence.
After the Yorktown defeat, there was a shift of power in English parliament and the new leaders were willing to consider independence. Yet the power in England was still unstable and another leader was named. Lord Shelburne sought peace but wanted to avoid agreeing to American independence. However, the potential alliance of France, Spain and the Netherlands, along with the colonists, were a viable threat to Britain and persuaded them to concede independence (Ketchum, 305).
It was not until July 1782 that Lord Shelburne acknowledged the United States as an independent nation, yet the U.S. representative John Jay objected to the lack of recognition that America was already an independent nation and negotiations halted for several months. In the fall of that year, Britain agreed to recognize America as an independent nation and to peacefully withdraw British troops.
There was a settlement on Newfoundland fishing rights and the western expansion of America’s borders. In turn, American agreed to the release of Loyalist property and to honor their private debts (Boucher, 213). The United States and England signed a provisional peace agreement in January 1783 and the official treaty was signed in September, ratified by Congress the following January. While the treaty assured peace and independence, it left some of America’s borders undefined, which caused debate in the years to follow (Potter, 274).
2. Discuss in detail the Articles of Confederation. Show their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Include the problem of balancing local autonomy with the virtues of centralized authority.
The Articles of Confederation were presented for ratification in November 1777 and fully ratified in 1781, though the colonies had been operating under their guidelines de facto since 1777. The goal in creating the Articles of Confederation was to unify the colonies in their quest for independence. When the war ended in 1783, a group called the federalists sought to create a new governing doctrine for the United States that would solidify the central government and create one country rather than separate states (Ketchum, 335).
The strengths of the Articles of Confederation include the creation of the name of the new nation – the United States of America. They also established that each state held the right to govern and create laws for their citizens except for those directly granted to the federal government.
Another positive idea from the Articles was freedom between the states; in effect, allowing citizens of one state to travel freely to another without papers and to extradite accused criminals from one state for committing a crime in another. It also created the proviso that only the central government could engage in foreign relations or declare war without the consent of Congress (Ketchum, 336).
The weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation include the fact that it held one vote for each state, no matter the state’s size. It also did not include any method for the central government to enforce their laws, such as requesting troops from the states. There was no means by which Congress could enforce such a request. The Articles also did not include a method by which Congress could generate funds of its own.
The Articles stipulated that each state would provide funds based on their set property values, a rule that was difficult to regulate. Another weakness was evident in America’s relations with foreign countries. Other countries did not recognize the central government as it held such little power.