In certain respects, the War of American Independence was a civil conflict waged between competing political factions in the British-settled areas of British North America, precipitated in part by the desire to assert authority over British North America's vast territory and dispersed population. The American radicals were particularly concerned by the question of the disposal of the frontiers of the Thirteen Colonies, whether the territories east of the Mississippi annexed from France in the Seven Years War, the St. Lawrence River-centred expanse of Canada, or the scattered settlements in Atlantic Canada. In each of these areas, American radicals--drawing from their ideology of popular representation--sought to appeal to local elites to join their sides and to legitimate the absorption of these frontiers into the emerging American nation-state. In all these areas the American radicals failed to gain this support owing to fundamental misreadings of the priorities of these elites. In Canada, for instance, the American revolutionaries failed to take into account the fundamental conservatism and traditional principles driving Canada's landholding and clerical elites. Theoretically, the radicals could have had more success in Nova Scotia, intimately linked to New England by recent migration and still maintaining active contact with the immigrants' communities of origin. Nova Scotia's innate sympathies towards the Thirteen Colonies--and those of its mercantile elites--were squandered as a result of American privateering in the area, among other forms of military action. American privateering disrupted the trade with points elsewhere in the British Empire that sustained Atlantic Canadian communities at very high costs in financial and human suffering, while the embattled Thirteen Colonies were in no position to provide the necessary exports to substitute for the British trade.
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