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Saratoga Guarantees American Independence

Excerpt from How America Got It Right, by Bevin Alexander, pages 10-11

The first great success of the American patriots came on October 17, 1777, when a British army under John Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga on the Hudson River in upstate New York. Burgoyne had gotten into an impossible position because of abominable leadership. British General William Howe, instead of moving his large army up the Hudson from New York City to assist Burgoyne, took it instead to capture Philadelphia. Burgoyne, cut off from all help, had no choice but to capitulate.

The surrender created a sensation in Britain. Belatedly, the leaders realized they were on the wrong track. In March 1778 Parliament repealed all legislation offensive to Americans (the infamous Sugar Act, the Tea Act, closing the port of Boston, quartering troops in colonial homes, and so forth), and in April the government sent a commission headed by the Earl of Carlisle to offer the Continental Congress what amounted to complete independence, with the only proviso that the Americans recognize the British sovereign. This was, in effect, what came to be called “dominion status,” which London later granted to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. If this offer had been made any time before the surrender at Saratoga, the thirteen states most likely would have accepted it, and they would have become the first British dominion.

But the overture came not only after the Americans had realized Britain’s incapacity to reconquer them, but also after they had seen the great advantages that would accrue if they no longer were tied to British apron strings.

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