Why didn't Great Britain just get rid of the 13 colonies in the 1760s?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Sucrose, May 19, 2011.

  1. Sucrose Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Location:
    Michigan
    Okay, so I've been reading up just a little on the American Revolution and the things that caused it, and while American motivations in the years leading up to the the ARW get written about to death, I'm unclear on the British ones.

    I can't help wondering why Britain just didn't essentially just ditch the colonies during the taxation fiasco in the 1760s. All right, not really ditch them, but tell them to go fend for themselves if they wouldn't pay the taxes. In reality the colonies probably wouldn't get actual political independence, but Britain could have forced them to at least raise an army and pay for their own military costs. Hell, it sounds like it would have been a good opportunity to get out of paying any money at all for the colonies.

    This was the situation in the 1760s:

    1. Great Britain was in debt due to the Seven Years War

    2. The colonies were costing Britain money

    3. The Stamp Tax and later taxes were introduced to pay for the troops defending the colonies and colonial administration, not to collect revenue for Britain. The colonists may have been afraid that taxes would be used for this purpose in the future, but it wasn't the motive at the time.

    4. The colonies utterly refused to pay the Stamp tax, or any other taxes to Parliament

    So, why didn't Parliament just withdraw their troops, and tell the colonies to basically shove off and defend themselves if they refused to pay for their own defense? I don't quite understand how the above situation led to increased efforts to force the colonies to pay the tax, and then an eight-year-long war.

    Trade would remain essentially the same, as Britain was the largest trading partner of the colonies and would remain so. In The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith essentially states that a separation of Britain and the American colonies would result in economic benefits for both of them. Obviously most British politicians would be opposed to American independence for various reasons, but the point is that either way, the British economy wouldn't be damaged. As we saw in OTL, losing the colonies did little damage to British trade, and actually may have improved it, as the focus moved from the American colonies to other countries. In fact, unless I'm mistaken there was an economic boom in Great Britain in the years following the ARW.

    And from what I've gathered, the Proclamation Line of 1763 was largely in place to keep the peace between the native tribes and the colonists in order to avoid those expensive, expensive Indian wars. Why not make it the colonies' problem? Given that it's the 18th century, I doubt humanitarian reasons were much of a motivation.

    The biggest drawback I can think of is that the British could potentially be cut off from trade with the Iroquois trading network, but the colonies could have been negotiated with/forced to guarantee that British access to the Iroquois wouldn't be impeded.

    And yet, somehow, we get:
    1. Britain wants colonies to pay taxes to Britain, to pay for colonies
    2. Colonies refuse
    3. .....
    4. War!

    So, maybe someone can help me out here, as I'm a little baffled. Why waste so much money on a fight over such small amounts of tax revenue?
     
  2. Blackfox5 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2010
    Britain was trying to rationalize its empire. It saw a benefit to centralize and coordinate the colonies. And Britain also had responsibilities to its new dependants - all the North American Indians who now looked to the King to protect their treaty rights.

    Abandoning all those responsibilities basically means Britain gives up its whole empire in North America. Merchants have investments there. The King takes his responsibilities very seriously. Parliament as a whole wants to oversee the Empire, and individual politicians have a variety of interests there.

    Britain is not a person with one mind. It is a collective of many minds which all want different things, and must act in some kind of compromised agreement. You are not going to get consensus to simply abandon the colonies.

    Government policy is never rational in the way an individual might be.
     
  3. SavoyTruffle Memeber

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2010
    Location:
    Luxendarc
    If Britain gave up its colonies it would totally go against the point of winning the Seven Years War.
     
  4. Finn Custom User Title

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Location:
    Iowa
    Doing that to the Thirteen Colonies would have been a foolish and permanent solution to a short-term problem.
     
  5. Sucrose Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Location:
    Michigan
    Alright, I guess getting rid of them wouldn't have made sense, but why not in the least make them pay for their own military costs?

    I guess I just don't "get" the whole taxation thing, and how it led all the way to a major war.
     
  6. Elfwine Byzantophilic Brony

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Location:
    West of Constantinople
    That was the immediate impetus behind the idea of the whole taxation thing - raise money from the colonies to help cover the costs of the military forces there.

    It lead to a major war because Parliament botched handling it and the colonists who felt taxation was tyranny raised unholy hell about how it would lead to horrors not seen since the Spanish Inquisition.
     
  7. danwild6 American Exceptionalist

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2006
    Part of the problem was that the British following Pontaic's War decided to garrison there soldiers in the coastal towns and cities not on the frontier.
     
  8. Elfwine Byzantophilic Brony

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Location:
    West of Constantinople
    And they garrisoned places in Nova Scotia, too. Its not as if the only places that are important to defend are the frontier, contrary to what parochial colonists who thought that smuggling was a right preferred.

    More to the point, what frontier posts would you suggest that weren't done OTL?
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2011
  9. Wolfpaw Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2008
    Location:
    God Hates Flags
    Because then their balls would be smaller than those of France and Spain.

    Obviously.

    ;)
     
  10. Earl_of_Somerset Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2010
    how bout this.

    To the Colonists:effective immediatly all British troops are leaving for home. You must defend yourself from other european powers, otherwise, your scewed!:p
    Have a nice day.
     
  11. Wolfpaw Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2008
    Location:
    God Hates Flags
    Dear European powers:

    Have fun occupying the eastern coast of an entire continent filled with a restive population.

    Good luck.
     
  12. Elfwine Byzantophilic Brony

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Location:
    West of Constantinople
    The thirteen colonies are pretty far from being anything more than not-that-far-inland from the eastern coast. Not even close to even half a continent.

    And a land of ~2.5 million people isn't exactly impossible to occupy. Not if you have a large enough army.
     
  13. archaeogeek Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2010
    Location:
    Montreal
    Nobody can sealift that many troops in the 18th century.

    Also, the colonies paid for their share of defence: it's called militias. The guys Britain loved to use as cheap cannon fodder and to leave stranded afterwards, or to cheat out of battle rewards.

    Also, smuggling is very much a right if your alternative is to fatten the HEIC.
     
  14. Wolfpaw Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2008
    Location:
    God Hates Flags
    Fair enough.

    I'm not saying they wouldn't be able to do it, just that it wouldn't be very fun. Especially since the colonial policies of absolutist Spain and France are likely to be bitter pills for Colonists used to British parliamentarianism.
     
  15. Elfwine Byzantophilic Brony

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2010
    Location:
    West of Constantinople
    How many are you envisioning? Occupying a country of 2.5 million people isn't exactly requiring a military force in the hundreds of thousands.

    This reeks so strongly of propaganda I want a source, preferably several. And I say this as someone in no way enthusiastic about how the British treated colonial soldiers.

    Your alternative is paying taxes. Horrors!

    The Honorable East India Company selling tea is not a crime against anyone or anything. In the Americas, at least.

    And I would be skeptical at best if they're the only alternative to smuggling.



    Judging by how the colonists reacting to the idea that the government was merely going to enforce pre-existing but long neglected taxes, I'm not sure how much more hostile they'd be.

    Not that this disputes your main point, just saying.

     
  16. Mumby Bread and Noses

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    Location:
    wandering
    Taxation was only a small portion of the American greivances. We placed tariffs on American goods via the Navigation Acts which restricted their ability to trade. The taxes were imposed from Parliament which they had no say in. American people were forced to house British soldiers, often in their own homes.

    But all these things could have been dealt with. If we had divided the colonies into larger chunks, we could have given each an elected Privy Council which had representatives in London to voice American greivances. Before the Revolution, the Continental Congress gave us a choice. Either raise the tarriffs and bring in taxation and the extension of some sort of franchise to the Americans, bringing Parliamentary control to the colonies, or increase tarriffs but leave the colonies alone. And the militia-army problem could have been solved by training American regiments. A population of about 3 million must be able to produce a fair amount of professional soldiers.
     
  17. Nytram01 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2007
    Location:
    Portsmouth, Hampshire
    Wasn't the East India Company given the monopoly on tea because it was going bankrupt and the British government believed it was too important a company to let it fail?
     
  18. archaeogeek Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2010
    Location:
    Montreal
    Certainly more than fought in the canadian campaign in 1759.

    The entire colonial militias were left stranded in the middle of nowhere after Cartagena de Indias.

    I don't see what's so noble about paying taxes to a foreign megacorporation.

    The HEIC was monopolizing industry and destroying local economies - I'm not entirely sure for the 13, but in Quebec, local ceramics industry around Montreal dies out almost entirely between 1760-ish and the 1820s, thanks to HEIC monopolies. Sorry but if Wal-Mart started collecting taxes and sending goons to close local shops, I'd probably question their and the government's motives.
     
  19. Socrates Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2011
    I believe the often overlooked aspect of American grievances was that, as Britain wanted to keep alive the lucrative French fur trade in the Ohio country, the motherland was trying to tax the colonists to pay British soldiers to restrict the colonist's settlement. Being forced to pay for your own defence is one thing, but being forced to pay for your own interests to be restricted is quite anouther!

    A few questions:

    What sort of chunks we would be talking about? Quebec, New England, the middle colonies, the South, the islands? How would this affect state identity? I can't see the Virginians wanting to be subsumed into another state, and more than New Englanders liked being put into one dominion.

    Why would each new state be given a privy council on top of their colonial assembly, if that privy council had to send representatives anyway? Wouldn't the assembly (maybe transformed into a Commons) send representatives directly? Which British institution would these representatives report to? Parliament or the Crown? I've heard the colonists wanted the latter, but that would surely mean being de facto controlled by the British Privy Council, which would be less democratic.

    I also don't see why the British needed to tax directly. Couldn't they just ask for a lump sum to be handed over, to be raised however the colony wanted in a manner similar to the current EU setup?
     
  20. euromellows Pro-Praetor

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Perth, Western Australia
    Was there ever a possibility that Britain would lose less badly and the 13 colonies gain their independence but don't gain any further territory (ie, none of the frontier lands including detroit and former french territory)? What are the prospects for such an independent state?