Just how beat up was Britain after the Revolutionary War?
When the British surrendered in Yorktown in 1781, roughly 15–20% of American colonists were still loyal to the crown. Awkward. It must have been even more awkward for the lingering British. It took 30 long months before the last of them left South Carolina. In November of 1783, the final redcoats boarded ships and vacated New York. The Britain they returned to had changed. Here’s how.
Britsh Prime Minister and quitter
Lord North served as Prime Minister of Britain during most of the war. After the war, he resigned in disgrace. War is stressful, especially for a double-chinned chicken like Lord North.
Before the British were defeated, North had attempted to end the war by pitching the Conciliation Plan. The plan was rejected, along with North’s will to persevere. By the time the final redcoats set foot on home turf, Marquess of Rockingham occupied the role of Prime Minister.
Demand for political reform
America made reform look good. The British commoners couldn’t help but want a little taste of the revolution themselves. Citizens began to demand constitutional reform. The public criticized the government for the way they’d run the war.
Parliament, it seemed, no longer represented the values of the ordinary folk. The Association Movement caught wave. At the top of its agenda was to trim back the king’s power. Extending voting rights to more people was a hot ticket item as well.
The Revolutionary War increased the national debt dramatically. Taxes had to be raised to make up for lost income. The flow of imports and exports dropped like a bowling ball during the war. Stock and land prices plummeted.
The financial sob story was short-lived. By 1792, trade between Europe and Britain doubled. Thanks to the quick rebound, no financially-motivated rebellions took place as they did in France. Some Britains even argued that it was beneficial to lose the war thanks to the long-term economic benefits.