October 19, 1781
By September 28th of that year, British General Lord Cornwallis knew it was finished. Washington had arrived at Yorktown.
Weeks earlier, the British fleet under Admiral Thomas Graves failed to break the French naval blockade at the Battle of Virginia Capes. The defeat denied beleaguered British troops much needed reinforcements and supplies. Cornwallis found himself stuck in an unenviable position along the Virginia Coast, his troops exhausted by an ill-conceived campaign in North Carolina, his sea-born lines of communication severed, and his retreat blocked by the Marquis de Lafayette. Before him stood a superior force led by General George Washington and Count de Rochambeau. A British rescue force had been deployed, but it would arrive too late…
And so, hopelessly surrounded, the British general made the only decision he could. Nearly 8,000 soldiers, sailors and officers were surrendered and the Revolutionary War was effectively over. Fighting would continue through 1782 as terms of peace were negotiated. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally ending the war and establishing the sovereignty of these United States.
Roger Pilon, of the Cato Institute, reminds us:
Eleven years after they declared the nation’s independence, which American patriots finally won on the battlefield at Yorktown in 1781, the Founders drafted a constitution for the United States that reflected to a large degree the principles the Declaration had set forth.
In anticipation of the coming election, it’s most appropriate to remember this day in our nation’s history. Let us not forget the philosophical architecture of our American Revolution nor the economic and moral foundations of individual liberty and limited government we strive to defend, to this day.
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