The Decision to Hire German Troops in the War of American Independence: Reactions in Britain and North America, 1774–1776
- Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 2015
- pp. 111-150
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In the 1770s and 1780s as many as 40,000 German soldiers were hired to defend British imperial interests on four continents. The vast majority—at least 30,000—saw service in America. This article focuses on British and American public reactions to the plan in the period between 1774, when rumors about the intended use of foreign troops first emerged, and the summer of 1776, after the first contingents of German troops had arrived in North America but before military encounters with the colonists had taken place. In Britain, the reliance on forces from outside the empire in a conflict believed to be about British liberties provoked strong opposition. Critics used the hire of “barbarians” as evidence of a sinister plot to deprive Englishmen of their liberties. In America, news of the plan to hire Germans gave radicals an effective tool in their efforts to unite the colonists against the British. An analysis of these public debates sheds light on conflicting perceptions of Britishness and “foreignness” during the Revolutionary period.