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Main Factors Of Success Of The American Revolution

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One of the defining events of the eighteenth century was the United States revolution and subsequent victory against the massive empire of Britain. Perhaps considered one of the only successful revolutions of that time period, the American Revolution was a victory on all fronts. Although the Patriots were not necessarily more technologically advanced nor more powerful, their skillful actions through politics and military alliances helped them triumph over their foes. The British severely underestimated the Americans, and through strategic military victories that boosted morale and gained overseas support, the Patriots were able to deal blows to them by fighting non-traditionally. In this light, the United States battled its way to victory, independence, and later one of the key players on the world stage.

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Often when a person references the American Revolution, they focus on the military aspects of the victory. While certainly important, this view neglects the efforts of Founding Fathers such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and many others. During the first and second Continental Congresses, the appointing of George Washington and the creation of the Declaration of Independence were instrumental in raising the morale of the people from the early beginning. The Declaration also formally declared the break from Britain, raising the stakes of the war. Books such as Common Sense by Thomas Paine advocated democracy and rebellion against those who restricted freedom.

The American people did not wish to be tried for high treason or subjected to harsh treatment, and thus their incentive to triumph increased. Supplemented by George Washington’s natural magnetic personality and tendency to inspire loyalty in the common people, soldiers continued fighting even past surmountable odds. Joseph Read once explained that “Washington had ‘had expressed himself to me in such terms that I thought myself bound by every tie of duty and honor to comply with his request to help him through the sea of difficulties,’” (p. 44) and after the battle of New York, the soldiers remained for an extra month on duty in the face of defeat because of him. Clearly the influence within the states was strong, but they’re also existed those in Parliament like Edmund Burke, Duke August Fitzroy, and other prominent Whig politicians who at the very least did not support the war against America, if not supported the Patriots. This softened blows and eventually led to the ending of the war, when King George and Lord North could no longer rally support for their cause and were forced to yield to the Whigs who were tired of the war. Perhaps without them, Britain would not have given up so easily nor have been so eager to strike a peace treaty no matter what the terms.

Britain’s loss in the war is often attributed to French and Spanish aid, but the influence of other European nations certainly played a part in bringing the great empire to its knees. Catherine the Great famously began the First League of Armed Neutrality, which aimed to prevent the British from seizing French contraband directed towards America. The opinion of the British throughout Europe was not exactly favorable, and the other countries saw a chance to hurt them indirectly. Whilst the rest of Europe remained on the sidelines antagonizing Britain, France and later Spain ended up directly fighting against them on the side of the Americans. France joined the war after the surrender of General John Burgoyne and his 5,895 troops at the Battle of Saratoga. Benjamin Franklin acted as the ambassador to France and heavily influenced the king towards America’s favor, and the later arrival of Thomas Jefferson helped France and the United States maintain a mostly beneficial relationship. John Adams also later remained ambassador to the Netherlands. “Financial support from France and the Netherlands, and military support from the French army and navy, would play a large part in the outcome;” (p. 293) it is evident that without the help of the foreign powers that America was able to skillfully enlist to its aid, the United States would have been less inclined to be victorious.

It is inevitable that when discussing America’s victory in the revolutionary war, one brings up military strategy and numbers. One of the things the British were most confident in was the size and renown of their army and navy, known to be the most well-disciplined and armed in the world. Undeniably, the Patriot volunteer army, unequipped and inexperienced as they were, were thought to have little chance of even crippling the British Redcoats. Nonetheless they were able to work around this setback; guerilla warfare and their knowledge of the land was necessary for their fighting style. Commanders such as Francis Marion waged guerilla war in the swamps down South, while Washington and his generals continued to subvert expectations in their attacks and strategies.

During the siege of Boston, British General Howe famously exclaimed, “My God, these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months,” (p. 93) when he saw the fortifications built outside of Boston on Dorchester Heights overnight. This constant underestimation would eventually lead to Cornwallis’ defeat at Yorktown and an American victory; many British wrongly assumed the colonists would tire of conflict and surrender within a year. Yorktown involved both the Americans and the French, whose General Rochambeau and Navy General De Grasse were influential in the blockade of the harbor and subsequent surprise attack. The Spanish focused more upon the south of the colonies, yet it is clear that America strove militarily to overtake the British. If they could not defeat them with firepower and traditional warfare, they were willing to do whatever it took, including the Christmas attack on the Hessians at Trenton, which broke an unspoken code that prevented warfare in winter. The United States won their war for independence not through pure skill and strategy, but tenacity and perseverance.

Numerous battles, people, and occurrences played key roles in the Revolutionary War. Spies, great orators, lesser generals, single events that resulted in a magnanimous affect. It could be said that Washington was a great factor in the success of the Revolution, with his natural charm and leadership qualities rather than a roster of extensive military talent. Conceivably, Benjamin Franklin’s role in gathering French aid that turned the tide of the war might be considered most important. It is plain, however, that every single inciting cause and every single reason for the triumph of the new United States wove together from all political, diplomatic, and military angles in order to create a rare situation in which the British had no choice but to sign away their colonies. Hence, the United States of America began its struggle for fame, power, unity, and a place on the global stage.

10 October 2020

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