Thirty years after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 the King and his government faced another rebellion. This time, three thousand miles away, a select group of American colonists were agitating for independence. The implicit question before Parliament was what kind of war was it fighting. Was it a rebellion that needed to be put down or a war where success would mean less than the status quo? Unfortunately, for Parliament and the crown, the British leaders chose poorly. In the colonists they saw illegitimate agitators seeking to break apart the empire. In choosing a rebellion that needed to be repressed the British leaders lost the war. Despite numerous victories in battle, America was lost. Events in America did little to change strategy in London. No British general was able to translate the subtleties of events in the theater of war for the ears of the cabinet.
Throughout the war British leaders were unable (or for some, unwilling) to reassess their strategy because they didn’t understand the nature of the conflict. And they didn’t understand the conflict because (1) British leaders in power were unable to comprehend the American people and their cause, (2) which when filtered through the British political structure inhibited clear policies and obtainable political objectives, and led to (3) a lack of coordination between military actions and political ends. Ultimately what inhibited British leaders from reassessing their strategy was the interaction between the government and military, exacerbated by incomprehension. They couldn’t see the forest for the trees because they thought they were sailing in the open ocean.