Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




James R. Sharp


American Revolution, British Occupation, New York

Subject Categories



A decade of political unrest over the question of parliamentary taxation resulted in the development of an alternate political structure of committees and congresses in the province of New York. By 1776, a revolutionary government led by the Provincial Congress controlled the province. Upon learning of the Declaration of Independence, the New York Provincial Congress declared independence from the British. Within months of this declaration, southern New York was occupied by British troops, and remained under British control for the duration of the Revolutionary War. The area was under martial law for the duration. Britain's loss of the Saratoga Campaign brought French entry into the war, and a major strategic reassessment as the American colonies became to the British but one front--and not even the most important--in a world war with France (and later others). A peace commission led by the Earl of Carlisle was sent to America, spending time in Philadelphia and New York, but its proposals were met with contempt. Partially as a result of the failed mission, a new strategy was developed for fighting the war by the British. A major part of this new strategy was the restoration of civilian government to the province of New York. It was hoped that, among other things, this would showcase Britain's desire to, rather than impose a tyranny, restore free government to the colonies. General James Robertson was chosen to be the new governor, arriving in 1780, but was unable to implement the strategy because of opposition by Sir Henry Clinton, the commander of Britain's forces in America.

The dissertation examines the developing break with Britain, the occupation, and the failure of the attempt to restore civilian government it. The dissertation examines the effect that various appalling, violent or questionable acts by British troops or officers had on the people of New York, and discusses briefly how British military actions and the occupation affected the developing independent New York government. It contrasts events in Georgia, where civilian government, complete with an assembly was created, with events in New York. Lastly, the dissertation examines the question of whether the restoration of civilian government was just too late in 1780 to have been an effective strategy to win back the loyalties of New Yorkers and Americans, even if civilian government had been restored.


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