Could The Revolutionary War Been Avoided, Was American Independence Inevitable

Yes and no. I do not believe British efforts to create a true empire could have worked. The colonies had for many years been moving toward autonomy and were unwilling to accept the sort of imperial structure and dependency the British government tried to establish at the end of the Seven Years War, especially as there was no credible military threat on the North American continent to force them to rely on British arms. On the other hand, I could easily see an arrangement, something like dominionship, under which Americans would have remained part of the empire. If offered such an arrangement in the first months of the war, I believe most Americans would have happily accepted it.

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–Dennis M. Conrad

Yes. Ultimately, perhaps by the mid-19th-century, British North America would have become independent in the same way Canada, Jamaica, and Australia became independent and self-governing under the British Commonwealth. Franklin thought this would happen naturally. The nature of the American Revolution though, was not inevitable.

–Robert J. Allison

I believe American independence was inevitable, not necessarily in 1776 but within decades. The continental colonies were growing too fast and as Paine pointed out there was something ridiculous about an island ruling a continent.


–Gordon S. Wood

No. Almost nothing is inevitable in history. One can easily envision counterfactual scenarios in which the American colonists, like their northern neighbors, resolved to remain within the British Empire and then achieved peaceful separation from Great Britain during the nineteenth century. For those who would argue for inevitability, the question becomes, when does a lasting independence become inevitable? October 1781? October 1777? May 1776? April 1775? June 1774? 1765? 1763? 1688? 1607? Or, for that matter, 1814? At any of these points, circumstances might have turned out very differently, or historical actors might have behaved differently and achieved some sort of peace and reunification.

–Benjamin L. Carp

“Inevitable” when? Certainly not in 1765 or 1768 or 1770. Nobody – not Samuel Adams or anyone else –spoke of independence in those years. (Myth alert: the notion that Adams did was trumped up by a Tory trying to frame him.) After the Tea Party, colonists differed over paying for the tea – and still no talk of independence. But when Parliament disenfranchised the people of Massachusetts, those people, in August-October 1774, threw off British rule everywhere outside of Boston, and these were the folks who first advocated independence – but Samuel and John Adams cautioned them to slow down so they wouldn’t scare off other colonists. Only after King George declared the colonies in open rebellion late in 1775, hired foreigners to shoot at Englishmen in America, and burned coastal towns was the idea of independence mainstreamed. Finally, at that point, I’d say declaring independence became inevitable, but Americans still needed to win a war to defend it.

–Ray Raphael

Independence was NOT inevitable. Quite the contrary. A British victory would have enabled them to turn the American colonies into another Ireland, with a fake aristocracy and a standing army to keep order. As early as 1775, the British were pushing the line that the Americans weren’t really English. They were a mix or a muddle of races, Irish, German etc. This was the kind of propaganda that they used to crush Ireland.

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–Thomas Fleming

The only unassailable answer is, “So far as we know.” Historians don’t get to run experiments. Almost all of Britain’s other distant colonies have become independent, so we might conclude that political separation would have happened by this time anyway. But those other colonies gained autonomy in a world with a U.S. of A. and its example affecting things, so is their independence independent of U.S. independence?

All that said, I theorize that if the London government hadn’t tried to institute a tax that affected nearly every adult British subject in North America in 1765 (the Stamp Act), American colonists wouldn’t have developed the broad, united opposition to new taxation that lasted through other forms of taxes and other political issues and made independence feasible in 1776.

–J. L. Bell

No. Had the British made the overtures for peace even as late as 1775 and made the colonists full participants in the Empire the drive for independence would have faltered. After that it was going to be harder to put the genie back in the bottle, but we must always remember that the final results of the war could very easily had a different look had many things not occurred as they did. Without French aid the Americans would not have won anything remotely close to what they did if even one colony had broken free which is extremely doubtful.

–Jimmy Dick

Nothing in history is inevitable. Different decisions by key individuals at crucial points can have major consequences. Suppose, for example, that General William Howe decided to strike at the “soft underbelly” of the rebellion in 1776 by taking his forces to the South. Georgia and South Carolina lacked the resources to repel such an invasion, and the Americans would have been deprived of the five years in which they developed the infrastructure that supported partisan resistance in 1780. Also, southern Loyalists would not have been demoralized by persecution and thus more willing to assist the British. Howe could have quickly subdued Georgia and the Carolinas and moved to Virginia. It is hard to imagine that if Washington tried to march his army southward, the New Englanders would have gone. The British might have regained control of every colony south of Pennsylvania by the end of the 1776 campaign.

–Jim Piecuch

Would the British-American colonies eventually receive their independence? Yes, it is likely, especially if we look at Canada as a model. But these kinds of questions probably fall outside the realm of historical investigation. Having said that, I don’t think anyone in colonial America would have perceived independence as inevitable until sometime between 1775 and July 1776. The history of the British-American colonies is a story of growing Anglicization and British provincialism. It is not a story about the seeds of independence, planted in the soil of Jamestown and Plymouth, growing into a full-blown revolutionary moment that finally blossomed in 1776. If we take the long view, the American Revolution was one of the great surprises of the early modern Western world. Most informed observers would have said that it was “inevitable” that the colonists would continue to enjoy the political and economic benefits (among others) of being part of the British Empire.

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–John Fea

American independence was inevitable, but victory in the American Revolution was not. The American colonies were filling up quickly and building a distinctly American culture. After the French were expelled from the West and Canada, the American colonists did not “need” the British any more.

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