Why did the British lose? They tired of it. The feelings back home started to run against it,1 not unlike, I suppose, what happened to the Americans 200 years later when they found themselves waist deep in the bogs of Vietnam. A better question to be asked is why did they ever get started with military operations in the first place? Not so much because trade with the colonies was that important2, more likely because it was thought to take a "stitch" -- these Whigs in America were incendiaries "seeking to set the empire afire in every hemisphere." What was next! Rebellions in Bengal and in Ireland! Besides, it was thought that these squirrel shooting yokels could easily be put down.
"British military policy was predicated during the early period of the war upon two assumptions; that Americans would run at the sight of British troops and that a large number of loyalists would rise to assist the redcoats in putting down the rebellion. Neither calculation proved correct: Americans did not run and the Tories did not rise."3
These observations might be applied to Nova Scotia. The American patriots made the assumption that Nova Scotians, many of whom had come up to Nova Scotia but fifteen years before the trouble, would rise up to overturn British power in Nova Scotia. Only at Cumberland did we see the potential of a serious problem. However Eddy and couple of dozen followers were not enough to ignite a "revolution" at Cumberland, let alone the entire province of Nova Scotia. The principal reason for this is that Nova Scotia simply did not have the right mix of motivated people who would think it worthwhile to go through the blood and toil of a revolution.4 The fact of the matter is that the majority of Nova Scotians, like the Acadians who worked the lands before them (in many instances, the very same lands) just wanted to be left alone. When things are heterogeneous and no intercommunion, such as the population centers of Nova Scotia were during the American Revolution, then it should not have been expected that a full scale revolt could have gotten under way in the province. That it even got under way in America, in the sense that all thirteen colonies signed on, is surprising. It took the extraordinary effort of a few extraordinary men to get the southern colonies to involve themselves in a war that was not much in their interests. The American Revolution came about more because of the ineptitude of the bumblers that were in charge of British policy at the time than it did because of any strategic planning on the part of "Americans revolutionaries." Once the armed struggle was under way, well -- it turned into a queer war. Professor Coolie Verner:
"This war remains an anomaly among wars. A relatively small group of dedicated and uncompromising individuals was able to form and coordinate an army composed of citizens often reluctant to serve; which battling sporadically over a long period of time against a generally superior force, operated in a vast country populated by largely indifferent -- if not hostile -- residents; and which emerged successful with the assistance of an external power that was basically disinterested in the plight of the one combatant although keenly desirous of humbling the other."5
It was the fission trigger of the merchants of Boston that ignited the revolution and its products and fragments, as cold and as damp as some of them were, ignited the rest of the thirteen colonies. It did not catch in Nova Scotia. The bland explanation of an insufficient population base might be coupled with another fact. A significant part of the population -- newly arrived New Englanders, at that -- resided and worked lands that were not much served by the sea. There was of course Halifax, but it was dominated by military authority. And there was, too, the communities such as Lunenburg and Liverpool. The people of Lunenburg and Liverpool made their living by making up fish and cutting lumber which they then put on sailing vessels (which they built) and ran these primary products to a very wide market along the American seaboard and extending right into the Caribbean islands.6 On the whole, however, Nova Scotia, Halifax aside, might be compared to the up river lands of the American colonies. To make my point: with the repeal of the Stamp Act, in 1766, British taxation fell almost wholly upon commodities and thus effected the trading towns, being, of course, the shipping ports along the coasts, particularly those north of New York which had the best harbors and the largest populations. I quote from Miller's insightful work, Origins of the American Revolution:
"After the repeal of the Stamp Act, British taxation fell almost wholly upon the trading towns: the country people did not see the commissioners, customhouse officers, and admiralty judges who to the seagoing patriots were the embodiment of British tyranny. It was vital to the success of the revolutionary movement that the farmers -- who composed the great bulk of the population -- be persuaded to come to the aid of the townsmen; yet they revealed an alarming disposition to regard the quarrel as being exclusively between the seaports and the British government. To convince the farmers of their stake in the struggle, the town patriots were obliged to aim their propaganda at the weakest place in the people's armor: their fear of taxation by the British government."7
In the larger picture: the American Revolution put a wrap on the long standing feuds over American territory as had existed between the French, the Spanish and the British, since first these European rivals set foot in the new world. All three had their successes in various parts of North America; but, in the final analysis, they all lost out when the United States of America came into existence. Through Yankee ingenuity and insistence they staked out the vast middle area of the North American continent for themselves and left the cold and hot remnants of the north and the south to the English and the Spanish; and, in time, even these parts were seriously bitten into by the rapacious Americans.8
As for Great Britain:
[NEXT: PART 3 -- "Post-Revolution -- The Loyalists (1782-90)."]
"... at the close of the war there was less thought of what she had retained than of what she had lost. She was parted from her American colonies; and at the moment such a parting seemed to be the knell of greatness. ... It is no wonder that in the first shock of such a loss England looked on herself as on the verge of ruin, or that the Bourbon courts believed her position as a world-power to be practically at an end ... [Yet] it was of unequaled moment in the history of the world. If it crippled for a while the supremacy of the English nation, it founded a supremacy of the English race. From the hour of the American independence the life of the English people has flowed not in one current, but in two ..."9
To conclude this part, we but bring you to Paris. It was there on the 3rd of September, 1783, that the war between the colonies and Great Britain was brought to an end by treaty.10 It is not a long document; it consists of but ten articles. Anyone of these articles might prove to be of interest to the historian, but one article is of considerable interest to those who study the history of Nova Scotia as that history unfolded during the concluding decades of the 18th century.
"That there shall be no future confiscations made nor any prosecutions commenced against any person or persons for, or by reason of, the part which he or they may have taken in the present war, and that no person shall on that account suffer any future loss or damage, either in his person, liberty, or property; and that those who may be in confinement on such charges at the time of the ratification of the treaty in America shall be immediately set at liberty, and the prosecutions so commenced be discontinued."
This provision was meant to protect the people who had supported the crown in its struggle to retain control over these English territories. These Tories -- American people who were the very crust of society in the colonies -- were now to be deserted. But how could such a provision be enforced from the outside against those who were to take over the reins of power in the new United States. Feelings ran very high during the war as the patriots battled in the name of liberty and independence. Could it be expected that the hate that had developed for the British administrators and their Tory friends could just be whisked away by a treaty signed in Paris. A great number of Tories in the colonies thought not. It was this fear, notwithstanding the fine words of Article 6 of The Paris Peace Treaty, that drove, at the end of the war, thousands of British loyalists away from the United States and into the Province of Nova Scotia. This will be the subject of the next part in our history.
-- The End Of Part 2 Of Book 2.
[NEXT: PART 3 -- "Post-Revolution -- The Loyalists (1782-90)."]