X hits on this document





44 / 367

  • -

    16 -

  • -

    not the government -- profited from land sales, and the sheer attraction of

cheap land created serious military problems. Settlers dispersed uncontrollably over the land, pushing the Indians into small, bloody wars that these settlers could not win without expensive help from the seaboard, in some cases from England itself. Neither treasure house nor strategic base, Anglo-america was a gigantic real estate company from which London got little except trouble.

And yet there were persuasive arguments on the other side. The American fisheries bred seamen essential to British naval power. American farmers and fishermen fed West Indian slaves and aggressive American merchants drained hard money out of the French and Spanish empires by selling products unneeded by Britain herself. But the strongest arguments centered on population. The spectacular growth of the Anglo-american population had, by the mid-eighteenth century, created a major market within the British empire. A rapidly rising vol- ume of transatlantic shipping had made the continental colonies a vital part of British sea power; about a third of the British merchant marine was American. Contemporary statistics indicate that the colonies comprised the single truly dy- namic sector of the British economy on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. 21

When, about 1750, New France attempted to contain the powerful but militarily inefficient giant to the southward, it triggered a major policy change in London. The value of the continental colonies simply had become too great to continue with the policy of military laissez-faire. After an intense debate, Lon- don decided to send regular troops to America, at first in numbers not so large as to be unprecedented, but later in great quantity. By 1760, when New France fell, more than twenty regiments of British regulars were bearing the brunt of com- bat. The American colonial soldiers were, in the words of one British officer, recruited mainly "to work our boats, drive our waggons, to fell trees, and do the works that in inhabited countries are performed by peasants".22 If, in the after- math of the decisive victories won by these British regulars and by the Royal Navy in the Seven Years War, colonial Anglo-americans felt that they had been relegated to second-class status within the British empire, it does not seem sur- prising; Anglo-america had become economically too valuable to have its mili- tary affairs left in the hands of the unruly, inept Anglo-americans.

The British decision, in the treaty of 1763, to keep Canada, the trans- appalachian West, and Florida as a territorial buffer that would secure forever these dynamic continental colonies was of world-historical importance. Militar- ily, London had no choice except to garrison these great new territories with an expensive regular army. The expense of this new colonial military establishment led directly to the taxation of the colonies by Parliament, and in turn to the fierce constitutional debate and the Anglo-american resistance movement that in time produced imperial civil war. But an armed population of more than two million people three thousand miles away could not be defeated, not even by a British army and navy larger than the force that had defeated New France and New

Document info
Document views527
Page views527
Page last viewedSat Oct 22 01:59:55 UTC 2016