What success and failures did the British meet in the American War for Independence in trying to exploit colonial social cleavages?

The British ultimately failed to exploit colonial social cleavages in the American War for Independence. They tried to use the presence of Loyalists and slaves to their advantage, but in the end, neither group prevented England’s defeat.

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One colonial social cleavage that British tried to exploit in their war over America’s independence relates to the Loyalists. In the colonies, a great number of people were loyal to Britain and desired to remain entwined with the British Empire, which was, at the time, the dominant superpower.

The Loyalists were reviled by the Patriots. The Patriots wanted to overthrow British rule, which they thought was tyrannical and oppressive. Patriots tarred and feathered suspected Loyalists and even burned down the house of a well-known Loyalist merchant named Thomas Hutchinson.

The British thought they could use the Loyalists to their advantage. They planned to take New York, where large numbers of Loyalists resided. New York would become a jumping-off point for retaking the other rebel colonies. This strategy was not much of a success. The British could not effectively secure New York, let alone the other colonies.

Another colonial social cleavage that British tried to exploit was that of slavery. Britain tried to get slaves to fight on their side by promising freedom. This plan, in a way, backfired as well. It caused the colonies to allow slaves to fight on their behalf, with some states freeing the slaves who fought against the British.

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