Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
Propaganda

THE British defeat in New Jersey was not wholly owing to Washington's strategy: by their conduct as conquerors the British had helped materially to undermine their position in the state. Voltaire once said that a great conqueror must be a great politician. Certain it is that the political ineptitude of the British was one of the chief causes of their failure to master the rebellion.

Sir William and Lord Howe had been magnanimous in victory: never forgetting that their chief purpose was to restore the empire, they offered, in November 1776, a free pardon to all persons in arms against the mother country who took within sixty days an oath of allegiance to the King. To them were given "protections" designed to guard them against molestation by British troops. Thus the Howes made use of every weapon, psychological as well as military, in waging war and were repaid by seeing thousands of Americans affirm their loyalty to the British Crown. The patriot cause suffered a blow almost as severe as a major military defeat: farmers supplied the British army liberally with provisions; Loyalists volunteered to serve with the British army; and hundreds of rebels gave up the dubious struggle and made their peace with the conquerors.

The importance of this experiment could nor easily be exaggerated: the fate of the American Revolution depended in a large measure upon what occurred in New Jersey. Had the British been able to conciliate the inhabitants, establish just and orderly government, and promise absolution from taxes imposed by the British Parliament, the Revolution would have suffered a severe setback. In this event, perhaps all the Middle colonies would have renounced the rebellion and returned to the empire.

-163-

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