Term Paper: British Marines in American Revolution &amp War of 1812

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¶ … British Marinesduring the Amer Revolution War and the War of 1812

The American Revolution is considered to be one of the most important political events in the history of the U.S., as well as a turning point in the development of military tactics and warfare. From a political perspective, it represented the moment in which the American colonies gained their independence from the British rule, while from the military point-of-view, it marked the beginning of a new war strategy, in which all the components of both offensive and defensive forces were used and played their significant role.

The confrontations that took place on the sea are of particular interest due to the fact that they involved the British Marine as opponents. From this perspective, in order to have a comprehensive presentation of what the American Revolution, and the subsequent war of 1812, represented for the U.S. And the British Empire, it is important to take into account and underline, the role of the sea battles whose protagonists were the two.

Any independence war, as the American Revolution came to be known in history, is a rather complex affair, engaging all the forces at the disposal of the parts. The Americans, eager to break apart from the British rule and establish themselves as an independent, free, and national state, made use of all the means at their disposal in order to defeat their ruler. On the other hand, the British had both a territory to control and a prestige to defend. The U.S. colonies were a true asset for the Empire, taking into account the enormous economic perspectives lying ahead for the young states. On the other hand, the British were, at the time, the most important colonial power in the world, a reputation that had to be kept and protected from any attempt of undermining. All these aspects however cannot be pointed out without a proper presentation of the historical background that led to the burst of the American Revolution and the subsequent military developments, including the 1812 war.

In order to give a complete account of the events, and to underline the role the naval forces played throughout this time, it is important for the paper to underline the causes that led to this deployment of forces, the situation present in the camps of each side at the time, the major battles the two main combatants were engaged in, and their outcomes and implications for each side, with a special focus on the precise role of the British marine. As stated before, the 1812 war is essential in the economy of the relationship between the U.S. And the British. At the same time however, it was the opportunity for the British Marine to present a full scale deployment of its forces in an attempt of regaining control and imposing the British rule on the American nation. Therefore, analyzing the major battles, their implications, as well as indicating the practical outcome this confrontation represented for the English, will offer a wider view on the overall process of independence the U.S. And the British, from adversary stands, were engaged in. The final conclusion of the paper will come to point out the main remarks relating to this matter, with special focus on the role of the British naval forces in this overall background.

The historical context which determined the outburst of the revolution had a number of causes that covered all aspects of life. (Jenkins, 1997) the political causes of the revolution were rather significant for the outbreak of the revolution. 18th century Britain was a strong colonial power that had just defeated the French in war and was determined to follow on the path of reconstruction. In so doing, the British decision was to increase the tax pressure on the colonies in America, an aspect that was hard to accept for the Americans.

Economic factors were as well essential for developing an anti-British sentiment among the Americans. 18th century trade was, unlike today, limited to a certain number of important traders. The British on the one hand, and the American colonies on the other, were two major actors in this sense. However, the colonies considered free trade as an essential right for every independent and worthy nation in the world. (Jenkins, 1997) Therefore, the British Navigation Act was considered by the Americans as old fashioned and unresponsive to the changing world. The additional grip the British tried to impose on the colonies only strengthened the latter's desire for freedom and independence.

Aside from the causes that had a practical application in everyday life, there was also a matter of mentality change that manifested, most likely in connection with the overall changes taking place at the time, in response to the outdated principles of the British parliamentary democracy. Thus, Thomas Paine criticizes and points out the failure and old-fashioned nature of the monarchic political system which is flawed and fails to represent the people or its will. (Halsall, 1982) Thus, Paine, at least in this part of his argumentation, sets the background of his ideas in the historical reality of his time only to underline the mistakes of the British system and the need for a revolutionary path towards erasing the English influence from the new American set of values.

Aside from the immediate causes of the revolution, the physical conditions of the two sides determined the evolution of the conflict in terms of naval confrontations. In this sense, the American side was somewhat different from the British and this was seen in the overall result of the war.

The colonies had experienced, with the help of the British crown, a blossoming evolution in the 17th and 18th century, largely due to the sea trade that was conducted especially within the British Empire. (Jenkins, 1997) it was therefore only natural that both the American side and the British to have at their disposal a strong naval force. On the one hand, as pointed out by Allan Gardner, "the Americans of the eighteenth century were notably a maritime people and no better sailors were to be found," as "American seamen at the opening of the Revolution had the training and experience which made them the best sort of raw material for an efficient naval force."(Gardner, 1913)

At the other end of the table, the British side had, above all, a long historical tradition in waging naval warfare. They had represented the most important naval power for centuries and had managed to keep their supremacy on the sea, despite the constant threats coming from the Dutch, the French, or even much later, from the Germans. The British force relied by tradition in the naval capabilities. This was largely due to the fact that their geographical position had demanded they have a well established naval security force that would defer all attacks coming from the sea. At the same time, the commercial relations with the rest of the world were most often conducted by sea, due to the cheap nature of transportation. However, from the time of Elisabeth I, the threat of the Spanish Armada had imposed the British the development of a naval force that would protect the British commercial vessels and, in turn, would even practice piracy. Therefore, from this point-of-view, the English had a well trained naval force, capable of engaging in sea war. (Trevelyan, 1962)

The British from the Empire, and even the Americans that supported the presence of the Royal Crown in the colonies relied heavily on the support of the navy as part of the defensive and even offensive arsenal. In this sense, William Pitt constantly appealed to the "sons of the waives" to save the empire form external threats as well as to keep the unity inside. A proof of the general reliance and importance of the naval forces is Pitt's call to the navy to unite against the common enemy that was, in 1757, the French Empire. Thus, he addressed in June 1757 "a call to glory (...) as freemen, not slaves, for who are so free as the sons of the waives?" (Trevelyan, 1962) This type of address is considered by historians as relevant for the general perception of the navy as being a force to be reckoned with and relied upon in defeating the French in the war. Moreover, it represented the basic idea that the fleet and the united empire, including therefore the American colonies, won the decisive war against the French through sheer determination and sea domination.

There was still a matter that played a decisive role in establishing the general guidelines for the naval war that the Americans and the British would engage in the Revolution: the internal situation in England. The conflicts that emerged in the Empire, following the Glorious Revolution of 1688 had reverberations in time and, by the second half of the 18th century the internal struggles for power between the Whigs and the Tories became obvious and influenced the way in which politics was conducted… [END OF PREVIEW]

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