Benjamin Franklin and the American Revolution

By Jonathan R. Dull | Go to book overview
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Chapter Three
Eighteen Months in Congress

I

BECAUSE WE KNOW the outcome of the American Revolution, it is difficult for us to appreciate how unlikely was its success. By all odds the highly professional British army and navy should have suppressed the rebellion in America, as they had defeated uprisings in Ireland and Scotland and would defeat uprisings in Canada and India. Parliament was virtually united against the rebels, and British public opinion almost as much so. Only once had Americans defeated a European army (at Louisbourg in 1745). The northern and southern colonies had little history of military cooperation, and many Americans remained loyal to the Crown. Franklin's experience in the Cockpit surely must have been a clear demonstration that he could expect little mercy if he aided armed resistance. Why did he and the other rebel leaders risk their very lives?

It seems clear that they came to feel that they had no choice, Franklin with his greater experience of the British government sooner than most. The British government menaced their ability to choose how and by whom they would be governed. Their property and perhaps even their religion would be at the disposal of those who viewed them with contempt. Some

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