In the years leading up to the War for Independence Britain fought four wars with France. The French and Indian Wars, known as the Seven Years War in Europe lasted from 1739 to 1748. The New England conquest of Louisbourg would have been telling if New York did not remain neutral and continue to trade with Quebec. These continuous trade wars with the European nations and the trade bonds formed between the American states and Europe, particularly France would play a large part in the American Revolution.
There is a difference in troops fighting a war of aggression in a foreign country and those same soldiers defending their homes. General Gage had a low opinion of American troops from the French and Indian War. When the first conflicts began, General Gage thought he was using police action to suppress an unruly mob, not engaging the first troops of the Continental army. This led to a series of strategic errors; when Howe replaced Gage in he knew he was facing an army. He moved his base of operations then proceeded to chase Washington and his army out of New York and across New Jersey. In mid-December, he made a critical error when he established a base of operations in Trenton and scattered his men around New Jersey in winter quarters. This disbursal, along with the march across the land led to a critical supply issue; Washington was considerate of his countrymen when it came to provisioning his forces, the British, especially the Hessians, were not. His initial victories helped consolidate popular support for his army. Every incident of theft and rape turned into support for the Continentals.
Washington risked everything in the historic Battle of Trenton, and won; then won again in Princeton. Howe withdrew to Raritan and Burgoyne marched south chasing the Continentals along the way down to Saratoga. Here he found himself trapped; the Hessians had destroyed the popular support he expected. Burgoyne was defeated and his army taken prisoner setting into motion a series of events that gave the Americans victory in the battle of supplies and provisions.
America had two of its finest diplomats, Benjamin Franklyn and John Adams in France. Up to the Battle of Saratoga, they were successful in garnering covert European support. With the decisive victory in Saratoga They were able to obtain full diplomatic acknowledgement in the Treaty of Amenity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance. Before the American Rebellion Britain had been expanding its Empire at the cost of its diplomatic relationships with its European neighbors. France used the American Revolution as an opportunity to resume its war with Britain, as did other nations. Britain found itself at war with the western world on a number of fronts.
At its inception, the American Patriots only had a majority of support in the northeastern states, elsewhere most citizens remained uncommitted until the British army alienated them. Once the popular tide turned against them, the British could win battles and occupy forts but they could not maintain control of the countryside.
Chambers, J. W. (2000). Revolutionary War (1775-83). Retrieved 01 31, 2012, from The Oxford Companion to American Military History: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O126-RevolutionaryWar177583.html