The War for America

In many ways the American Revolution was unavoidable. Given the struggle to control the resources and riches of these British colonies, armed conflict was an eventuality that could have been foreseen with a little imagination. Britain’s North American colonies offered riches too extensive and necessary to the growth of empire.

The House of Hanover had ruled England since 1714; by 1774 George III ruled an empire that surpassed even Rome’s in territory and wealth. But this expansion had come about in no small way because of war. Britain had defeated France and Spain in the Seven Years’ War, acquiring Canada from the French and Florida from Spain. But victory came at a staggering cost, sending the British national debt to £132.6 million, the equivalent of more than £11 billion today. Even the annual cost of maintaining 7,500 British troops in America to protect newly acquired assets came to £225,000 annually (19.6 million in today’s pounds). Parliament paid for it all by raising taxes on the British people. By the war’s end, land taxes consumed 25 percent of property owners’ income.

This situation couldn’t continue, and it didn’t. Parliament and George III reasoned it was now time to get the colonists to pay up for the British navy protecting American trade and the British army protecting the peace with Indian tribes along the frontier. “A typical American…paid...

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