The Loss of the American Colonies

Thanks to the voyages of John Cabot, Britain claimed large areas of the North American land mass.

By 1630, the Spanish, French, Dutch and English had all established colonies in North America.

Soon English and other British settlers arrived in large numbers and founded Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, North and South Carolina, and in 1664 English troops occupied the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, renaming it New York, a name from which it has been known till the present day.

A war then broke out with the local American Indian tribes, who resisted the British colonisation, but they were defeated and practically the whole of the eastern seaboard of the present United States became known as ‘New England’.

(Above) The 13 British colonies, what is today referred to as 'New England'. It was the British people that founded and built the early United States of America. 

Soon the English back home started to impose laws on the colonies, with the British monarch attempting to exercise control.

Various acts of meddling by the British crown led to dissatisfaction, until first in Massachusetts and then in Boston and New York rebellion broke out among the colonists.

The aftermath of the Austrian War of Secession and the Seven Years’ War saw British holdings in North America grow substantially.

To recover from these wars, Britain looked to the colonies for more funds, and this caused great resentment, given the sacrifices the British-American colonists had made during these wars to help defeat France.

Protests broke out in many colonial cities.

In 1766 the British government repealed some of the taxes, but by then it was too late.

Regaining control at this point would have been relatively easy, but the British government then imposed more taxes in 1767.

The colonists then boycotted British goods in response, so British troops attacked protesters in Boston and killed five of them, this event becoming notorious as the Boston Massacre.

(Above) Two of the Founding Fathers, George Washington (Left) and Thomas Jefferson (Right), both of English extraction. 

Further suppression led to the First Continental Congress, which drew up a petition to be sent to King George III, pleading for a change of policy towards the colonies.

George III then made the worst decision in the history of the British Empire:

He rejected the petition out of hand and called upon his loyal subjects to suppress the rebellion.

On 19 April 1775, 700 British troops were on route to destroy a colonist weapons store when they were confronted by 70 militiamen near Lexington.

The British ordered them to disperse.

All did as told, except one, who fired at the British troops, a fatal shot which started the American War of Independence.

These British troops then marched to the weapons store but were routed by a colonist militia.

The Second Continental Congress then met in Philadelphia in May 1775 and declared ‘American’ determination to resist British aggression with armed force.

It also drew up measures to create an army, appointed George Washington as Commander-in-Chief, authorised the issuing of paper money and took on the role of a formal government.

The British suffered some early defeats, such as the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, and the war spread to the south.

The colonists in the north then invaded modern Canada, but were beaten back.

Despite this set back, the Continental Congress then declared independence on 2 July 1776, and on 4 July adopted a formal Declaration of Independence from Britain.

(Above) The Declaration of Independence, which saw the British colonies in North America split from the crown and set up their own independent state. For Britain, this was a tragedy, as it cut the British people into two separate parts.

In July 1776, a British army of more than 30,000 men landed on Staten Island near New York City and defeated a nearby colonist army.

The British then advanced on Philadelphia and the Continental Congress fled, with Washington being defeated once again.

By September 1777, the British suffered a major defeat at Saratoga, following which the French, hungry for revenge after previous wars, joined with the rebels.

The British then withdrew to consolidated positions in the New York area, and then attacked in the south, seizing Georgia.

The rebels then adopted guerrilla tactics, after which a French army landed, and both Washington and the French then laid siege to the British army at Yorktown, which surrendered on 19 October 1781.

Severely overstretched around the world facing numerous enemies, Britain was forced to accept defeat.

(Above) During the Napoleonic Wars, British troops captured the American capital Washington DC and burned it to the ground. 

In the Treaty of Paris in 1783, independence was granted to the thirteen colonies and the British people were now split it two:

One half in the British Isles, and the other half in the American colonies.

The British loyalists then retreated to the far north, setting up the state of Canada.

It was not to be the last British intervention in North America.

In 1812, during the Napoleonic Wars, America and Britain once again went to war, during which the British took Detroit and Washington DC, burning the latter to the ground.

Britain remains the only country to have invaded and destroyed Washington DC.

Despite the loss of the American colonies, it must be stated that it was the British people who founded the United States of America and this new nation was founded on British values.

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