News & Opinion | July 4, 2018 5:00 am

What the Brits Thought of American Independence in 1776

Letters from that time show the British had mixed feelings about the American rebellion.

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Those of us stateside celebrate the Fourth of July every year with fireworks and hot dogs in honor of American independence, but in 1776, the news of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence was not met with celebration in Great Britain. In fact, a look through the letters from the period, now held at the archives of the United Kingdom’s Nottingham University, shows that British people felt pretty divided about the war that was brewing between their country and the colonies. They had a lot of thoughts about how bad it was, whose fault it was and what to do about it, writes Time. 

In 1775, before independence was declared, Brits were worried about King George’s response. One letter from a group of merchants and traders in the southwestern port city of Bristol written in 1775 shows how people were concerned about the economic hardships the revolution would create. They wrote to the king to urge him to give American colonists their freedom instead of risk a bad trading relationship.

But other letters showed how some Brits were unsympathetic to the American rebels.

In December 1776, a man named G.B. Brudenell wrote to H.F.C. Pelham-Clinton, 2nd Duke of Newcastle under Lyne from London, giving news of the capture of Fort Washington by Gen. Howe, who drove the rebel forces from Manhattan, though at great cost.

“It is very melancholy to think,” Brudenell wrote according to Time, “that we must sacrifice so many brave lives, in order to put an end, to such an unnatural Rebellion.”