Bermuda: the key to Canada

It is a known fact that a single West Indies island could be worth more than any North American territory. The US seized the Bahamas early in the war for a short time, however; the Spanish took them towards the end of the war and bartered them to Britain in exchange for East Florida at the Paris peace conference.

I know that seizing a valuable West Indies colony isn't necessarily an easy thing to do, especially for the US at this time, but that doesn't mean it couldn't have been done. Towards the end of the conflict, Washington was aware that an independent America would have to stake its own claims to territory. He knew America's future lay to the west, but with Canada firmly in Britain's hands even in peace the western frontier was in a precarious position.

Washington knew that taking Canada by force was an absurd proposition, but America had some of the greatest statesmen of the time and given enough leverage they just might be able to rest Canada from Britain in exchange for something more valuable. So he hit on the prospect that with American independence, the strategic situation in the western Atlantic would change dramatically. An independent America would mean that Britain would lose America's eastern ports, so naturally Britain would remedy this by founding a new base. Its pretty obvious that there is only one base that was equal too the task.

Sitting astride the West Indies trade routes Bermuda had been little more than a stop over on the way to America or the Caribbean, its role had change little since then, but its importance was going to change markedly with American independence. The nation who controlled this little group of islands could dominate the western Atlantic.

After Yorktown, America was no longer fighting for her freedom or England to subdue her wayward colonies. The belligerents of the conflict now merely fought for who got what when it was all over. During the 1782 campaigning season fighting had shifted back towards the Caribbean, everyone knew why, these small specks of land were some of the most valuable real estate on the planet at the time. The Americans of course would play little part in that theater of operations as not having a single warship larger than a frigate. But as many Americans said then and now, "where there is a will there is a way".

The US had been laboring for several years to complete her first ship-of-the-line. The USS America had been being slowly built endlessly delayed by lack of funds and material. But now, Congress faced with the last possible chance to join Canada with the American republic was pulling out all the stops to get her to sea.
 
Bermuda was well-defended, and nigh impregnable. Wouldn't the American ships be better used elsewhere?
 
Actually it had hardly any defenses at that time. In fact it was basically "left to its own defenses" as stated by a notable who's name slips my mind. It was only after the ARW that it became a major base.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Naval_Dockyard,_Bermuda
Ah...went there a couple of years ago, but it should've been obvious they were 19th century fortifications.

Still, it seems unlikely that the USA would think that taking Bermuda meant taking Canada, because it doesn't. British ships could still easily reach Canada, and the RN's 100+ ships of the line will recapture the island easily. Surely a ship-of-the-line could be used, I don't know, to recapture New York or a far more important location?

Secondly, Bermuda isn't in the Caribbean, its in the Mid-Atlantic, and, coincidentally, off the Carolina coast, hardly the "key to Canada."
 
While Canada was nearly traded for a French Caribbean island (Guadeloupe, IIRC), nothing would be traded for Bermuda, because it has no resources, like sugar. It is an island with very poor soil and serious water shortages, not a rich growing island.
 
Bermuda's value lies in its strategic location. It lays in between Canada and the west Indies as well as Britain and the west Indies. With the loss of American ports, Britain's dominance of the western Atlantic was threatened. Bermuda's location made it an ideal location for a naval base in the western Atlantic for maintaining British dominance. But if a hostile nation such as France were to gain control, Britain's trade with her west Indies colonies could be severed or at least severely curtailed.

Britain could retake Bermuda for sure but we're already late in the war and active hostilities between the US and Britain ended in Sept. 1782 with a preliminary Peace agreement(formally ending a year later). Until April 1782 the RN was busy with the French and still had yet to deal with the Spanish(who were planning operation against the Bahamas). Consequently; I think its safe to say that if the Continental Navy successfully occupies Bermuda, it would be a valuable bargaining chip for the US at the negotiation table.
 
Bermuda's value lies in its strategic location. It lays in between Canada and the west Indies as well as Britain and the west Indies. With the loss of American ports, Britain's dominance of the western Atlantic was threatened. Bermuda's location made it an ideal location for a naval base in the western Atlantic for maintaining British dominance. But if a hostile nation such as France were to gain control, Britain's trade with her west Indies colonies could be severed or at least severely curtailed.

Britain could retake Bermuda for sure but we're already late in the war and active hostilities between the US and Britain ended in Sept. 1782 with a preliminary Peace agreement(formally ending a year later). Until April 1782 the RN was busy with the French and still had yet to deal with the Spanish(who were planning operation against the Bahamas). Consequently; I think its safe to say that if the Continental Navy successfully occupies Bermuda, it would be a valuable bargaining chip for the US at the negotiation table.
Dan

I think it highly unlikely that the US could try for Bermuda given their very limited fleet and drastically reducing army. Furthermore, as said by other posters they would have difficulty holding it for any length of time. Its the sort of place where US forces could easily be isolated and brought to battle so could give a good moral boost to the British.

Also I think you overestimate the strategic importance of Bermuda. The French and Spanish managed to maintain their trade with the Americas without it and I know of no serious attack on it prior to this period. It would surely have occurred if it had been that crucial.

If somehow the US had managed to get it, and kept it, I can't see it getting traded for Canada. As mentioned it is not a rich island so not worth much. Definitely not the vast expanse of Canada, even curtailed as it was at the final peace.

Also I think it would be an error for the US to gain Canada. Would given them a lot more hostile people to control. Not just in the northern Indians and the French Canadians. Without it the more determined loyalists have no relatively easy escape route from the US. Therefore they have to stay in the US, probably facing continued abuse and discrimination. As such a US with probably an even more over-inflated sense of its own importance would be riddled with groups with every reason to mistrust it. This American empire might get off to a quicker start but might also have a nasty shock in its near future.

Steve
 
It would be very unwise for the Americans to play this game considering the British are handing over Maine, parts of upstate New York, the Niagara region and the entire Northwest territory which the Americans have little claim on.
 
stevep said:
Dan

I think it highly unlikely that the US could try for Bermuda given their very limited fleet and drastically reducing army. Furthermore, as said by other posters they would have difficulty holding it for any length of time. Its the sort of place where US forces could easily be isolated and brought to battle so could give a good moral boost to the British.
Well of course there is a high probability of failure(but a relatively decent chance for success), but considering that the US took New Providence in the Bahamas with am even punier force I don't think it is our of the realm of possibility. In fact it just might be so hare brained that it actually works.

stevep said:
Also I think you overestimate the strategic importance of Bermuda. The French and Spanish managed to maintain their trade with the Americas without it and I know of no serious attack on it prior to this period. It would surely have occurred if it had been that crucial.
Well there was no serious attack, because as long as Britain held the entire eastern seaboard of North America it really wasn't that important. But after American independence, the strategic situation change completely. Anyways in regards too Bermuda's strategic importance, Bermuda became one of the three main RN bases post ARW, then became the main RN base in the entire in the western hemisphere. I think that alone says a lot about its strategic importance post American independence.

stevep said:
If somehow the US had managed to get it, and kept it, I can't see it getting traded for Canada. As mentioned it is not a rich island so not worth much. Definitely not the vast expanse of Canada, even curtailed as it was at the final peace.
Despite your argument I'm not so sure.

stevep said:
Also I think it would be an error for the US to gain Canada. Would given them a lot more hostile people to control. Not just in the northern Indians and the French Canadians. Without it the more determined loyalists have no relatively easy escape route from the US.
Well as far as the Natives and Canadiens are concerned, I don't think the US has to much to worry about(we would've figured out what to do with them eventually). The loyalists could've gone to the West Indies(which many of them did), or even Australia.

stevep said:
Therefore they have to stay in the US, probably facing continued abuse and discrimination. As such a US with probably an even more over-inflated sense of its own importance would be riddled with groups with every reason to mistrust it. This American empire might get off to a quicker start but might also have a nasty shock in its near future.
"over-inflated sense of its own importance" you must be either Canadian or British. lol Well regarding the rise of the "American Empire" I don't think the addition of Canada threatens its future in the least(sure maybe an earlier ACW). Quite the contrary, removing the threat of invasion from the Canada probably gets America off to a more confident and peaceful start(no British presence in the old northwest post ARW and consequently no British agitation of the Indians post ARW and most likely no War of 1812).
 
Darkling said:
It would be very unwise for the Americans to play this game considering the British are handing over Maine, parts of upstate New York, the Niagara region and the entire Northwest territory which the Americans have little claim on.
Well in upstate New York we occupied Ticonderoga and Crown Point as well as Fort Stanwix on the Mohawk. In the Northwest we held Kaskasia and Vincennes. British held posts in those territories amounted to little more than isolated outposts at Oswego, Detroit, Niagara, and Mickilinac(however its spelled). I honestly can't see a way that holding Bermuda weakens America's hand rather than strengthening it.
 
Well in upstate New York we occupied Ticonderoga and Crown Point as well as Fort Stanwix on the Mohawk. In the Northwest we held Kaskasia and Vincennes. British held posts in those territories amounted to little more than isolated outposts at Oswego, Detroit, Niagara, and Mickilinac(however its spelled).
Niagara controls the Niagara region, Fort Stanwix is 2000 miles way and is dominated by the Britsih presence at Oswego.

Detroit (in addition to St Joseph and Miami) controls Michigan, north Western Ohio and northern Illinois and Indiana.

Michilimackinac controls the upper Lakes and thus access to Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Kaskasia and Vincennes are in lower Illinois and Indiana, they control only a small amount of those areas.

As far as I remember Crown Point was held by the British at the end of hostilities, in any case this is a 100 miles from the eventual border.

Again we have Maine which you don't contest.

I honestly can't see a way that holding Bermuda weakens America's hand rather than strengthening it.
The Americans were getting a sweat heart deal, they don't want to cause that good will to evaporate nor do they want to delay until a joint peace which won't see them get such terms.

Most worrying would be that Parliament was deliberately kept out of session to prevent them blocking a treaty that was obviously far too lenient given facts on the ground.

If the US attacks Bermuda the PM will be put under too much pressure by Parliament over the particulars of the treaty, once the treaty as OTL (let alone losing Canada) becomes known a vote of no confidence will follow.

In OTL Shelburne got kicked out when Parliament finally got into session, with even American supporters like Burke screaming to high heaven about the British handing over of territory in the west and abandonment of loyalists.

Fox then spent several months trying to reverse the treaty but got no luck because things were already set with the French.

Any delay to the treaty (which a US claim on Canada will cause) will likely be fatal to Shelburne's gift peace and bring about a more hard nosed peace.
 
Well as far as the Natives and Canadiens are concerned, I don't think the US has to much to worry about(we would've figured out what to do with them eventually). The loyalists could've gone to the West Indies(which many of them did), or even Australia.
O RLY???

Considering that les Canadiens would want to preserve the French language and culture within their own territory, I wouldn't be too too optimistic. After all, what if in the 1960's/1970's (many centuries later) the push for "la Révolution tranquille" and "Vive le Québec libre" come to life? Eh?
 
Dan1988 said:
O RLY???

Considering that les Canadiens would want to preserve the French language and culture within their own territory, I wouldn't be too too optimistic. After all, what if in the 1960's/1970's (many centuries later) the push for "la Révolution tranquille" and "Vive le Québec libre" come to life? Eh?
I guess that would solve our problem woth the Canadians soon enough. Nothing like a legitimate casis belli not that lack of one ever stopped us before though. Eh.
 
Yea, but for that you would need:

*To wait several centuries for this to occur.
*Québec would have to remain as a sort of "Middle Ages" society (thus anglos running industry, the Church maintaining the Index Liborum Prohibitorium, etc.)
*The key link would be a Maurice Duplessis-like figure to be in power, but that's beyond the scope of this board since that would have to be well into the 20th century

Thus Québec would be economically behind the rest of the US; whilst at the same time forced to move "in step" with the rest of the US among anglos.

Then once Duplessis is out you would need someone like Jean Lesage to get la Révolution tranquille to get started - but that's another century, again beyond the scope of this board, but you get the idea.
 
Well of course there is a high probability of failure(but a relatively decent chance for success), but considering that the US took New Providence in the Bahamas with am even punier force I don't think it is our of the realm of possibility. In fact it just might be so hare brained that it actually works.
That's a lot closer and easier to resupply.

Well there was no serious attack, because as long as Britain held the entire eastern seaboard of North America it really wasn't that important. But after American independence, the strategic situation change completely. Anyways in regards too Bermuda's strategic importance, Bermuda became one of the three main RN bases post ARW, then became the main RN base in the entire in the western hemisphere. I think that alone says a lot about its strategic importance post American independence.
Read my mail. I said that the French and Spanish didn't feel any need for Bermuda as crucial to their American empires. It did become more important to Britain after the revolution because we lost the colonies but nothing like as significant as you suggest.


Despite your argument I'm not so sure.
One small largely barren island for a huge area, even despite the vast parts of Canada given up for no logical reason. Also the French might decide that if Canada is going to change hands it should be returned to them. Then the US has a real problem.;)



Well as far as the Natives and Canadiens are concerned, I don't think the US has to much to worry about(we would've figured out what to do with them eventually). The loyalists could've gone to the West Indies(which many of them did), or even Australia.
Indians you could slaughter wholesale but French Canadians? Could get a very nasty reaction from Paris. And they are a lot, lot bigger than the US in everything bar land size. Also under those circumstances you might well see Britain cheering them on, or joining in.


"over-inflated sense of its own importance" you must be either Canadian or British. lol Well regarding the rise of the "American Empire" I don't think the addition of Canada threatens its future in the least(sure maybe an earlier ACW). Quite the contrary, removing the threat of invasion from the Canada probably gets America off to a more confident and peaceful start(no British presence in the old northwest post ARW and consequently no British agitation of the Indians post ARW and most likely no War of 1812).
Exactly what I meant. Such an admittedly ASB scenario would boost US overconfidence even more. Not to mention leave a Britain that would probably be nothing like as generous as it was OTL. Would probably be even more expansionist and arrogant and come a nasty cropper somewhere. Would be plenty of people who would welcome a payback and I'm just talking about those living within US borders.

Wouldn't rule out a 1812 as the US might try and seize Caribbean islands while Britain is busy with France. Without the hope, unfortunately never realised of British aid the Indians might give up more easily, although they weren’t give much choice. However it might make them strive even more to unit and do something to stop the attacks on them. Possibly even in alliance with the oppressed French in the north.


Even more to the point is the one raised by Darkling. If Parliament get angered they could give a much less favourable deal, based more on control of the ground. Then there would be little or no chance of expansion in the north because you would need to attack Indians in British territory. Don’t think even the early US would be stupid enough to do that.

Steve
 
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