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By James C. Bradford

The United States, Sea energy, and the realm

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The new republic had been without a navy since 1785. Indeed, few Americans then saw the need for a navy; they naively believed that the Treaty of Paris would lead to a resumption of trade with Britain and new trade with other nations.

Consequently, in an attempt to raise revenues, Britain imposed new taxes on the American colonists. The colonials found these measures, including the Sugar Act (1764), the Stamp Act (1765), the Townshend Duties (1767), and the Tea Act (1773), to be onerous and the methods used to enforce them, especially the Coercive Acts (1774), to be repressive. By 1774, in a show of political resistance, the colonists established the Continental Congress to express their grievances. Britain remained unmoved, and in 1775 open war between Britain and the Thirteen Colonies erupted at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.

In July 1779, a combined armada of six warships (two from Massachusetts, one from New Hampshire, and four from the Continental Navy), 16 vessels leased and armed by the government of Massachusetts, and 18 transports carrying a thousand Massachusetts troops sailed to Penobscot Bay in Maine to evict British troops who were constructing a fort in the area. The British defenders kept the Americans at bay until a relief expedition arrived from New York and forced the Americans to destroy their ships and flee southward by land.

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