Was the official break between the colonies and Great Britain in 1776 inevitable?

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It was probably inevitable that a break between Great Britain and the American colonies would take place at some point. The main reason for this is that the respective interests of the mother country and her colonies gradually diverged over time.

In the aftermath of the French and Indian/Seven Years' War, the British no longer had to maintain an expensive military presence in the colonies, as the Treaty of Paris of 1763 had required the French to give up all their territories in North America. The British then tended to see their North American colonies as a place to manage rather than as somewhere to be defended. Inevitably, this meant carrying out policies that were focused more on British interests than those of the colonists.

As the distance between the two sides grew, the British government became more out of touch with the needs and aspirations of the colonists. This resulted in a serious of deeply unpopular policies, most of them relating to taxation, which antagonized the American colonists to such an extent that growing numbers of them seriously began to contemplate declaring independence from Great Britain. The war that eventually broke out between Britain and America may not have been inevitable, but some kind of formal breach most certainly was, for the reasons just given.

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Historians, as a general rule, don't like to declare events, especially not events as complex as the American Revolution, inevitable. It is, however, hard to imagine that some major transformation in the imperial relationship between the colonies and Great Britain would not have taken place in the absence of independence.  At various points, though, historical contingency can be clearly seen. The North Administration chose the most provocative measures possible in the wake of the Boston Tea Party, the so-called "Intolerable Acts." Had they chosen a more measured response, it is doubtful whether events would have proceded as quickly as they did. And, of course, there was no plan to declare independence until 1775, and even then representatives of several of the colonies balked. Britain could also have accepted the famous (but probably overrated) Olive Branch Petition in the summer of 1775. It is difficult to imagine now, but the official break that took place in 1776 was likely, and probably even represented "common sense," as Thomas Paine pointed out. But it was not inevitable. People made decisions that brought it into being, and they could have made different decisions.

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