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Naval Rivalry, East Asian Stability and the Road to Pearl Harbor.

During the 1760s and early 1770s, relations between the Thirteen Colonies and Britain became increasingly strained, primarily because of resentment of the British Parliament’s attempts to govern and tax American colonists without their consent.[67] This was summarised at the time by the slogan “No taxation without representation“, a perceived violation of the guaranteed Rights of Englishmen. The American Revolution began with rejection of Parliamentary authority and moves towards self-government. In response, Britain sent troops to reimpose direct rule, leading to the outbreak of war in 1775. The following year, in 1776, the United States declared independence. The entry of France into the war in 1778 tipped the military balance in the Americans’ favour and after a decisive defeat at Yorktown in 1781, Britain began negotiating peace terms. American independence was acknowledged at the Peace of Paris in 1783.[68]

Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. The loss of the American colonies marked the end of the “first British Empire”.

The loss of such a large portion of British America, at the time Britain’s most populous overseas possession, is seen by some historians as the event defining the transition between the “first” and “second” empires,[69] in which Britain shifted its attention away from the Americas to Asia, the Pacific and later Africa. Adam Smith‘s Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, had argued that colonies were redundant, and that free trade should replace the old mercantilist policies that had characterised the first period of colonial expansion, dating back to the protectionismof Spain and Portugal.[66][70] The growth of trade between the newly independent United States and Britain after 1783 seemed to confirm Smith’s view that political control was not necessary for economic success.[71][72]

The war to the south influenced British policy in Canada, where between 40,000 and 100,000[73] defeated Loyalists had migrated from the new United States following independence.[74] The 14,000 Loyalists who went to the Saint John and Saint Croix river valleys, then part of Nova Scotia, felt too far removed from the provincial government in Halifax, so London split off New Brunswick as a separate colony in 1784.[75] The Constitutional Act of 1791 created the provinces of Upper Canada (mainly English-speaking) and Lower Canada (mainly French-speaking) to defuse tensions between the French and British communities, and implemented governmental systems similar to those employed in Britain, with the intention of asserting imperial authority and not allowing the sort of popular control of government that was perceived to have led to the American Revolution.[