Before the first shots were fired in the American War of Independence, very few people gave the Americans (also known as the â€˜colonistsâ€™ or â€˜patriotsâ€™) a chance. Britain had a population of 11 million compared to the patriots 2.5 million of whom 20% were slaves. Furthermore Britain had the most powerful navy in the world, an experienced and well-armed standing army of 48,000 men and the support of tens of thousands of loyalists and Indian tribes. Britain also held the economic advantage as they could rely on the profits from the South Atlantic system and the industrial revolution. So at the beginning of the war, an American victory seemed distinctly unlikely for American forces weak and British military and naval power enormous by comparison.[i].
Foreign aid obtained by the colonists was extremely important in their victory. In 1776 France extended a secret loan to the colonies and supplied them with gunpowder. These loans of gunpowder were extremely important in enabling the patriots to defeat Britain in the Battle of Saratoga. In February 1778 France and America signed The Treaty of Alliance that stated once France entered the war against Britain, there would be no more treaties before the colonists gained liberty, sovereignty and independence.[ii] The treaty also opened both nations ports to the others commerce and guaranteed French possessions in the New World. Therefore this alliance was very important as it brought optimism and boosted the morale of the patriots. As one soldier from Pennsylvania said, "There has been a great change in this state since the news from France".
France gave money, supplies and in the last phase of the war, military force. France supplied most of the muskets, bayonets and canons used by the colonists and without French aid it is debatable if they could have won the war. For example at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, 20 French war ships prevented Cornwallisâ€™ escape and led to the surrender of the British force and the end of the war.