Though the colonies had prepared and signed the Declaration of Independence in August of 1776, Britain made an attempt to end the hostilities between them and the colonies. The hope was to find a resolution to the problem at hand instead of losing more soldiers. General William Howe and Admiral Richard Howe, also known as “the King’s Commissioners for restoring Peace,” declare a proclamation from New York City on November 30th, 1776. It promises a pardon to anyone in 60 days who will be a part of the declaration that they will not participate in any “Treasonable Acting’s and Doings.”
Thousands of citizens from downstate New York found Howes’ offer appealing as they were willing to accept pardons once they turned in their weapons. Long Island, Westchester and Manhattan were firmly under British control during this time and it wasn’t until the Treaty of Paris that was signed in 1783 that they were set free.
Hoping to secure New York City while also capturing the Hudson River, General William Howe arrived with his huge army on August 22nd in Long Island; the success would separate in half the colonies that were rebellious. The Redcoats attacked the Patriot location at Brooklyn Heights on August 27th and overwhelmed the Americans in Gowanus Pass; the entire Continental Army was outflanked. As a result of the fighting, the loss of life was more on the American side with 1,000 men while the British loss totaled 400 men. However, Howe decided not to listen to the suggestions of his subordinates who advised him to attack the Patriot redoubts at Brooklyn Heights; he could have stopped the rebellion by capturing the Patriots’ military leadership.
General Washington had no choice but to order his men to retreat by boat to Manhattan. The British had the opportunity to prevent his retreat easily and take prisoner Washington and most of the Patriot officer corps. However, Admiral Richard Howe and General William Howe still thought they could persuade the Americans to come back to the British empire following the embarrassing defeat rather than forcing the rebellious colonies to submit as a result of executing Washington and his soldiers for the act of treason. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and other representatives from Congress tried again to negotiate on Staten Island with the Howe brothers. Unfortunately, the British would not accept the independence of the Americans which ended the negotiations.
New York City was eventually secured by the British on September 15th and would remain that way until the conclusion of the war. Upstate New York endured much hardship throughout the civil war between loyalist and Patriot fighters; many of them were bred and born in New York. The British would eventually remove their New York Loyalists after the Treaty of Paris to territories still remaining under British control such as Canada; the area they settled would soon become the province today known as Ontario.