War of Independence in North America 1775-83


Revolutionary, liberation war of 13 English colonies in North America against English colonial rule, during which an independent state, the United States of America, was established. The War of Independence was prepared by the entire previous social and economic history of the colonies. The development of capitalism in the colonies and the formation of the North American nation contradicted the policy of the metropolis, which regarded the colonies as a source of raw materials and a market. After the Seven Years’ War of 1756-63, the British government increased pressure on the colonies, in every possible way preventing further development of industry and trade in them. Colonization of lands west of the Alleghany Mountains was prohibited (1763), new taxes and duties were introduced, which infringed upon the interests of all colonists. The beginning of scattered rebellions and unrest, which turned into war, dates back to 1767. There was no unity among the participants of the liberation movement; farmers, artisans, workers and small urban bourgeoisie, who formed the democratic wing of the liberation movement, associated with the struggle against colonial oppression hopes for free access to land and political democratization. However, the leading position in the camp of supporters of independence (Whigs) belonged to the representatives of the right wing, expressing the interests of the upper bourgeoisie and planters who sought compromise with the metropolis. Opponents of the liberation movement in the colonies and open adherents of the metropolis were the Tories, or Loyalists, which included large landowners, as well as people associated with British capital and administration.

In 1774 the 1st Continental Congress of Representatives of the Colonies met in Philadelphia, calling for a boycott of English goods while at the same time attempting to reach a compromise with the metropolis. In the winter of 1774-75 the first armed bands of colonists spontaneously arose. In the first battles at Concord and Lexington on April 19, 1775 the British troops suffered heavy losses. Soon 20 thousand rebels formed the so-called Camp of Freedom near Boston. In the battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 the British again suffered serious losses.

On May 10, 1775 the 2nd Continental Congress opened, in which the radical wing of the bourgeoisie gained predominant influence. The Congress proposed that all colonies establish new governments to replace the colonial authorities. Regular armed forces were organized. J. Washington became commander-in-chief (June 15, 1775). On July 4, 1776 the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which was revolutionary in nature and authored by T. Jefferson. The Declaration announced the separation of the 13 colonies from the metropolis and the formation of an independent state – the United States of America (USA). It was the first state-legal document in history that formally proclaimed the sovereignty of the people and the foundations of bourgeois-democratic freedoms. The most important measures were the decrees on confiscation of Loyalist property (1777), as well as the lands of the crown and the state Anglican Church.

Military operations in 1775-78 unfolded mainly in the N. of the country. The British command sought to suppress resistance in New England, which was the center of the revolutionary movement. An American expedition to seize Canada failed to achieve its intended goal. The Americans besieged Boston and occupied it on March 17, 1776. However, in August 1776 the English commander W. Howe inflicted a heavy defeat on Washington’s troops at Brooklyn and on September 15 occupied New York. In December, the British troops inflicted another serious defeat on the Americans at Trenton. True, Washington soon managed to take Trenton and defeat the English detachment at Princeton on January 3, 1777, but the situation of the American army was still difficult.

The war brought together armies that differed in their composition, material equipment, and combat experience. The American rebel army was initially a poorly trained and poorly organized popular militia. However, the moral and political level of its soldiers, who fought on their land, for their vested interests, was much higher than in the mercenary British army. Improving the tactics of warfare, the rebels were able to achieve significant advantages. Avoiding major battles, the American army in cooperation with guerrilla units exhausted the enemy by surprise attacks. American troops for the first time used the tactic of scattered formation, against which were powerless linear battle orders of the British. At sea, under the domination of the British fleet, American ships also used the tactic of surprise raids, not only attacking British ships, but also making trips to the coast of Great Britain.

The weak centralization of power in the republic played a significant role in prolonging the war. The first US constitution “Articles of Confederation” (adopted by Congress in 1777, ratified by the states in 1781) preserved the sovereignty of the states in the most important issues. The War of Independence was at the same time a class struggle in the colonies themselves. Tens of thousands of Loyalists fought in the British army. The bourgeoisie and planters who led the struggle for independence resisted the realization of the democratic demands of soldiers, farmers, and workers. The victory of the revolution was possible only due to the participation of the broad masses of people. Among the poor people of New England were equalizing demands: limitation of property, introduction of maximum prices for food. The Negro people took an active part in the revolution. Negro regiments were created.

The English plan of military action in 1777 was to cut off New England from other states. On September 26, 1777 Howe took the capital of the United States Philadelphia, but the British army under the command of J. Burgoyne, marching from Canada to join with Howe, was surrounded and capitulated on October 17, 1777 at Saratoga. The victory at Saratoga, won by the American troops under the command of General G. Gates, improved the international position of the young republic. The U.S. was able to capitalize on the contradictions between Great Britain and other European powers. B. Franklin, sent to Paris as a representative of the USA, concluded a military alliance with the colonial rival of Great Britain – France (1778). In 1779 Spain entered the war with Great Britain. Russia took a favorable stance towards the USA, leading in 1780 the so-called League of Neutrals, which united a number of European countries that opposed the British desire to prevent trade between neutral countries and its adversaries.

In June 1778, succeeding Howe, General G. Clinton left Philadelphia. In 1779-1781 the British transferred military operations to the southern states, counting on the support of the plantation aristocracy. In December 1778 they occupied Savannah, in May 1780 – Charleston. At the head of the South American army was put a talented general, a former blacksmith, N. Green, who successfully combined the actions of rebel troops and guerrillas in the fight with British troops. The British were forced to withdraw their troops to the port cities. After the sea battle September 5-13, 1781 French fleet cut off from the sea the main forces of the British at Yorktown, Washington surrounded them from the land and October 19, 1781 forced them to surrender. Under the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1783 Great Britain recognized the independence of the USA.

The War of Independence was a bourgeois revolution, which led to the overthrow of the colonial yoke and the formation of an independent American nation-state. The former prohibitions of the English Parliament and royal power, which had hindered the development of industry and trade, fell away. The land latifundia of the English aristocracy and feudal vestiges (fixed rents, inalienability of allotments, majorat) were destroyed. Negro slavery was limited and gradually eliminated in the northern states. The transformation of western lands expropriated from the Indians into state property (Ordinance of 1787) and their subsequent sale created a base for the application of capital. Thus, significant preconditions for the development of capitalism in North America were created. However, not all the tasks objectively facing the American Revolution were solved. In the South of the country slavery was not destroyed. In all states, the property limit for voters remained high. Loyalist estates and lands in the West were sold off in large lots and fell into the hands of speculators.

The War of Independence, which in its time was a model of revolutionary warfare, influenced the struggle of the European bourgeoisie against feudal-absolutist orders. In the ranks of the American army fought about 7 thousand European volunteers, among them French Marquis Lafayette, A. Saint-Simon, Pole T. Kosciuszko and others. During the Great French Revolution, the rebellious people took advantage of the organizational experience and revolutionary military tactics of the Americans. The victory of the North Americans in the War of Independence contributed to the development of the liberation movement of the peoples of Latin America against Spanish domination.