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The American Revolutionary War.

Modern History. (a.d. 1492-1898). Peace of Westphalia to French Revolution (1648-1789).
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We need not linger long over a subject so familiar from British history. The American colonies had several grounds of complaint against the mother-country. By the Navigation Acts and other legislation, British merchants, manufacturers, and tillers of the soil were favoured at the expense of American subjects of George III. The direct cause of quarrel was the attempt to levy taxation from those who were not represented in the British Parliament. Hostility and resistance were aroused by harsh measures, and hence came riots, suspension of colonial assemblies or legislatures, the destruction of tea at Boston in December, 1773, the vindictive closing of the port to trade, the revocation of the Massachusetts charter in 1774; and the assembly of a congress at Philadelphia in the same year, where leading spirits were found in Samuel and John Adams of Massachusetts, and in George Washington and Patrick Henry of Virginia. Matters became serious when "a declaration of rights" was drawn up, and the concentration of British troops at Boston was followed by the organisation of the Massachusetts militia and the collection of arms and stores. In 1775 came the skirmishes of Lexington and Concord; the seizure of Ticonderoga and Crown Point by the colonists; the battle of Bunker's Hill; the fruitless invasion of Canada; the appointment of Washington to chief military command; and, in June, 1776, the "declaration of independence" voted in Congress, and adopted finally on July 4th. The hero of the struggle was George Washington; the turning-point was Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga in October, 1777, an event which is well described in Creasy's Decisive Battles. In the following month articles of "confederation for" The United States of America " were agreed upon in Congress, and the flag with the stars and stripes began to wave. Early in 1778 France -recognised the independence of the revolted colonies, and ships and troops were sent to aid them. Many battles were fought with various success, and on October 19th the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, with 7,000 men, to the colonial and French forces at Yorktown, in Virginia, gave a final triumph to the "rebels," and drove from office the British premier, Lord North, who was mainly responsible, with his obstinate and wrong-headed sovereign George III., for the disastrous contest.

The struggle, apart from America, had been for Great Britain one for very existence as a naval and maritime power. Spain, Holland, and France, each possessed of a formidable fleet, were combined against her, and the people dwelling on the southern coast had to endure a humiliating and unwonted sight in 1779, when 66 sail of the line, with a large number of frigates, were afloat in the Channel, defying attack, under the flags of France and Spain. In January, 1780, our naval reputation was somewhat restored by Sir George Rodney's defeat of a Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent, with the loss of eight line-of-battle ships. In February, 1781, when Holland had joined our foes, the same admiral captured the Dutch West India island St. Eustatia, with a vast store of tropical produce and 250 merchantmen. Spain deprived us of Minorca and West Florida, and a French fleet, under the Comte de Grasse, did much mischief to our trade and possessions in the West Indies. A turn of affairs came in 1782, and British credit in war against France and Spain was restored by two splendid achievements. On April 12th, in the West Indies, off Dominica and Guadeloupe, Rodney and Sir Samuel Hood won a glorious victory over De Grasse. The enemy's fleet, of 33 first-rates, carried a large number of troops for the conquest of Jamaica. The British admirals, with 36 sail of the line, fell upon them, and, in a battle of n hours' duration, captured the flagship, the pride of the French navy, the Ville de Paris, of no guns, with the admiral on board; five other great ships were taken, one was sunk, and the whole array was broken up in headlong flight. A few days later Hood captured two seventy-fours and two frigates, and the whole enterprise against Jamaica was wrecked. In September of the same year General George Eliott, afterwards ennobled as Lord Heathfield, repulsed the last great attack of French and Spanish naval and military forces on Gibraltar, and the valiant garrison, vainly assailed by bombardment, blockade, and starvation during a siege of over two years, remained still masters of the "Rock." In 1783 the Peace of Versailles ended the war, with the recognition of the independence of the United States, and the cession of Florida and Minorca to Spain.

The quarrel with the colonists thus had its issue in one of the greatest events of modern history, far more memorable in its consequences than the great war with France at the close of the 18th century and in the earlier years of the 19th. A great new state arose in the world, British in origin, language, and tradition, but taking a line of its own in political affairs, independent of British and even of European precedents. It was a state that, in spite of menaces and probabilities of dissolution, has remained united, and has grown so as to be far superior in population and territory to all European states save Russia, the colonial territory and people of the British Empire being of course excepted. In the whole history of the world there had been no previous example of the foundation of such a mighty state on new territory - a state so highly organised at the starting-point of its career, and one in which the free will of man is in so high a degree active and alive. There is in all history no example of two great nations so closely allied to each other in blood, so closely connected by the bonds of trade, so strongly influencing each other in various ways, as Great Britain and the United States. The whole future of the world, in fact, depends upon the mutual influence of the offshoots of the British stock of the human race.

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Pictures for The American Revolutionary War.

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