Whether the American colonies would have succeeded in their struggle for independence if they had not received aid in men and money from France, is an interesting and not a simple question. A review of this period makes clear the difficulties under which the colonists suffered. Becoming independent might have proved too much had the colonists been left entirely on their own.
We can be certain that with the growth of population in this country, the people, sooner or later, would have become independent of foreign rule. The struggle that began in 1775 should have ended in disaster, and the history and development of the United States have been very different. Tensions continued also between Britain and the rest of the European countries until the Declaration of American Independence and the outbreak of American Revolution in 1776.
The intervention of the Bourbon kingdoms and of other states in the struggle was prompted hardly at all by sympathy with the Americans, but rather by the opportunity to strike at hated Britain and to profit from her difficulties.
In her rise to wealth and dominance Britain had trampled upon the ambitions of her rivals, Holland, Spain, and France. Viewed after 1763 as a mortal enemy at the courts of Versailles and Madrid, Britain made no move to placate her foes and failed to build alliances with the states of central and eastern Europe which might have gained for her powerful friends in time of need. (1)The French did want independence more than the Americans did. But the colonists were not well equipped or organized to take on a powerful country such as the British.
One annoyance to France was the Sugar Act. It was, in the first place not a new tax but an modification of an old customs duty. This was...