Simon_Jester wrote:The main source of actual wealth for Britain that you could tax and spend on military operations was international sea trade, much of which was with America and therefore badly disrupted by the war.
Plus, Britain had to spend the majority of its available military budgets on the navy, because there were at least three sizeable European countries that would cheerfully swoop in and start chewing up their trade and shipping if it looked like Britain was weak enough navally to be taken down a peg or two. All of which piled in on Britain within three or four years of the outbreak of the rebellion in America.
So I figure that the government budget of Britain, while maybe not as great as it could have been, was at least within shouting distance of the maximum that the British political and economic system of the day would support. If the Revolutionary War was consuming half of that budget, it's a pretty strong indication that the government was working very hard to reconquer the colonies... and that the government was expending so many resources on it that other considerations almost had to be suffering.
That is a pretty bold assumption which I cannot agree with, considering that when a war really needed to be prosecuted in the past sums could easily be spent that surpassed the previous Governments budgets entirely, by way of massive money lending and credit. Like it happened every time Britain went to war with a continental power.
The problematic aspect is that in those wars Britain was spending mostly on its navy, whereas here it had to spend on its army, which was traditionally lacking compared to the continental powers.
By 1780, Britain was trying to fight a naval war against the usual suspects it had fought repeatedly throughout the 1700s (France and Spain, with the Dutch thrown in for good measure)... and at the same time
prosecute a land war on the other side of the Atlantic.
You are correct to point out that the British (like everyone else in this era) routinely borrowed on a huge scale to support their war effort. But when I stop and think about that and try to factor it into my view of the situation... there's still an issue of how much the British are spending compared to what they're willing to spend. It is simply that instead of the American Revolution representing the most the British were prepared to spend on a war at all, it represents the most they were prepared to spend on a land war
In a naval war, money would be spent on something directly beneficial to the English merchant class (e.g. sinking French privateers or capturing sugar islands in the West Indies). Here, though, there was much less economic advantage to be had in pursuing the war. Especially after it became not just a question of fighting that war on land, but also fighting a naval war.
You are not wrong to say the British could
have spent more on subduing the colonies.
However, I maintain that it would not have been in line with the politics and economics of the time for them to actually
spend much more than they did, while facing the other threats they faced.
Likewise, the British war effort merely 12 years later on dwarfs this and was continued with small interruptions for nearly 30 years.
This is true- but this was was successfully pitched to the British people as an existential war in defense of British customs and institutions. Moreover, the British could choose to abstain from fighting a land war, except when circumstances were favorable. This allowed them to concentrate their budget on the navy, which, as noted above, was the part of the British armed forces most likely to enjoy widespread support for its budget.
Ziggy wrote:I understand these issues, what I am questioning is whether or not they apply specifically to Upper New York Harbor, where the ships that could have feasibly intercepted the evacuation of the Heights would have been located. I mean, the shipyard in New York was a major naval base for the U.S. Navy after the Revolution; and the base for several American frigates during the War of 1812. While, granted, that doesn't necessarily imply that the geography is suitable for a sortie against fortifications, I have a hard time believing that such a major naval base would grow in an area where the ships would be almost unable to manuever/navigate in case it was attacked. In fact, the main site of the base itself was further UP the East River from the Brooklyn Heights.
I must observe that there's a big difference between maneuvering when under fire and when not under fire.
For example, in peacetime if the wind is blowing in a direction that would cause you to run aground and you don't have room to dodge, you just stop.
If you do that while someone's shooting cannons at you, your ship may never move again.
It wouldn't be completely impossible to sail up a broad, navigable river and silence shore batteries, but it is dangerous work, especially if you don't have a major qualitative advantage over the artillery of the batteries.