Scenario: Ask the class if they would fight if:
– you already enjoy almost the greatest freedom on earth, politically and economically.
– largest power on earth wants you to obey, come to heal, in a few small things.
– they have the most powerful professional army and navy in the world — they are the superpower.
– they have allies who will send mercenaries, if need be (Hessians would make up 30,000 of the 80,000 troops by the end of 1776)
– 2/3 will not fight on your side. You can take the majority of people off the table.
– it is not certain that you will be able to find any powerful ally
– you have not raised a professional army
– you do not yet have the manufacturing base to wage a long war.Remember, many would not join the American cause. A significant number of colonists would not fight for American independence.
– 1/3 of the population was behind separation from Britain
– 1/3 was not sure so held back, thinking restraint was prudent
– 1/3 were Loyalist, according to John Adams. (Mancall outline, lecture 46). They recognized that for all the problems, the British people and the colonists still had the freest constitution on earth, Parliament over king, the greatest army and navy, freedom to pursue material betterment to a significant degree (despite the Navigation Acts in a mercantilist world economy, which restricted trade, and despite the Quebec Act in a contest of empires, which prevented the Americans from moving farther west).

So only 1/3 of the population are for separation and willing to use violence to achieve it. Odds are stacked against them. 2/3’s of the people are not with them. Plus the most powerful army and navy in the world was poised to turn its full arsenal against them. (A little like the Persian Wars!)

Even among Patriots, there were great leaders who refused to sign the Declaration of Independence: John Dickinson, who represented both Pennsylvania and Delware during the founding. They had good reasons to refuse (see American Founding (2).

So why did we fight? 5 reasons:

1. We believed that we were unjustly attacked. Even before 1776, the middling sort fought in Massachusetts because blood had been shed in civil unrest … and in battle.
– Boston Massacre
– Lexington
– Concord

2. They fought for ideas, for constitutional principle.
– Recall the constitutional debates over the rights of British citizens in North America.
– Mancall’s lecture 26 on March 1776 list of grievances
– Declaration of Independence

3. They fought because their ministers told them to

4. They fought because they were roused to defense by the presence of mercenaries. They resented that more than 1/3 of the “British” troops on American soil were mercenaries. They were not fighting their British cousins. This made it easy to demonize the enemy. Mancall 26.

5. They fought because war is Hell (Sherman).
– rape and pillage Mancall 26