American Revolutionary War Was About Profit, Not Liberty

A Smithsonian exhibition lays bare the fact that America was granted independence by Britain as a global business decision, rather than ideological conflict.

…the American Revolution was largely a war about trade and economic influence—not ideology. France and Spain, like Britain, were monarchies with even less fondness for democracy. The Dutch Republic was primarily interested in free trade. The leaders of all three countries wanted to increase their nations’ trade and economic authority, and to accomplish that, they were willing to go to war with their biggest competitor—Great Britain.

To the French, Spanish and Dutch governments, this was not a war about liberty: It was all about power and profit. If American colonists won their independence, that would cause harm to British interests and open new trade opportunities in North America and elsewhere for those who allied themselves with the colonists.

This helps explain why George Washington was so obviously wed to the idea of preserving and expanding slavery as his means towards personal enrichment, when it directly contradicted any ideological purposes of freedom from tyranny.

Parkinson reveals how the system’s participants constructed a compelling drama featuring virtuous men who suddenly found themselves threatened by ruthless Indians and defiant slaves acting on behalf of the king. Parkinson argues that patriot leaders used racial prejudices to persuade Americans to declare independence. Between the Revolutionary War’s start at Lexington and the Declaration, they broadcast any news they could find about Native Americans, enslaved Blacks, and Hessian mercenaries working with their British enemies. American independence thus owed less to the love of liberty than to the exploitation of colonial fears about race.

Did you catch that? White men “threatened by ruthless Indians and defiant slaves acting on behalf of the king” brings to mind an inversion of liberty, a ruthless economic conflict over profit from the exploitation of land and people.

Interesting to think of Washington trying to rally his troops by arguing that liberty was tyranny, based on the fear of the British king setting Black Americans free from men like… Washington. Don’t forget the colony of Georgia had banned slavery in 1735 and America would have seen abolition at the beginning of the 1800s had it stayed under British control.

Washington worked so hard throughout his life to ensure none of his slaves were given freedom, even illegally detaining them with the help of powerful lawyers… more Americans should naturally seek to know whether Washington intended to generate wealth through things other than slavery. Carter very clearly made this distinction and criticized Washington as such in the 1790s.

He counted Washington’s half-brother, Lawrence, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson as friends; he regularly dined with and loaned money to the latter. Washington himself was a neighbor…“Carter’s plans look more like a pilot for mass emancipation,” Andrew Levy, a professor at Butler University, told CNN.

Not only was Washington differently aligned from what most Americans are taught, his role may have been overstated.

The Americans are barely noticeable on the sidelines, while the victors appear to be French. […] The last battle in this global conflict known in the United States as the American Revolution was not fought on the fields of Virginia in 1781: It occurred two years later at Cuddalore, India.

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