The New Nation: A History of the United States during the Confederation, 1781-1789

By Merrill Jensen | Go to book overview

I
War and Peace

The Making of Peace

THE WAR for independence began when the British government tried to suppress local rebellions in some of Britain's American colonies; it ended as a world war in which France, Spain, and Holland were fighting Britain while the rest of the world looked on happily. France wanted to regain her leadership in Europe, even if it meant bankruptcy. She welcomed any trouble England might have with her colonies. Therefore, when they revolted she gave secret aid, and after it appeared they might actually succeed, she declared war officially. She agreed to stay in the war until Britain recognized the independence of the United States. This alliance was a marriage of convenience for France, and of necessity for America, hence neither party looked upon the union as one of trust and love. Spain declared war in 1779, but with great reluctance, for the idea of colonial independence was a horrible one which she did not care to have spread among her own vast and discontented dominions in the new world. She refused to join the Franco-American Alliance or to recognize American independence. Instead, she busied herself with taking West Florida and in besieging Gibraltar, which France promised Spain should have before France would quit the war. The Dutch came in even more unwillingly. They grew fat on the profits of war trade as the years went by. They sent naval stores to France. They helped to get English goods to America and American goods to England. Their West India island of St. Eustatius was one of the busiest way stations between Europe and the United States.

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