The Foundations of American Nationality

By Evarts Boutell Greene | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XX
THE OPPOSING FORCES

WHILE Congress was debating the subject of independence, the first installment of Howe's army was arriving in New York harbor, and on the day after the decisive vote was taken, British troops landed on Staten Island. The Whig section of the American people, speaking through their delegates in Congress assembled, had declared that "these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states." Now the hard practical question was whether they could make that declaration good against Great Britain and their own conservative neighbors.

Making the Declaration good.

To many a hard-headed American who had got along comfortably under British sovereignty, this attempt to break up the greatest empire of modern times seemed utterly reckless. The British advantage in population, perhaps about three to one if Ireland is left out of the account, was not so serious, considering the distance at which British operations had to be carried on. More important was the disparity in wealth. America was rich in unused and largely unknown natural resources; but it was still largely dependent on European capital, which so far had come almost entirely from England, and it was especially lacking in facilities for the manufacture of military supplies. England, on the contrary, though much smaller than France in population, was the strongest commercial nation in the world.

British advantages.

For military campaigns carried on across three thousand miles of ocean and along a great stretch of coast line, naval power was vital, and here again the British position seemed

Naval and land forces.

-459-

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