The assaults of the privateers on British merchant ships took a huge toll on English business throughout the course of the war. The estimated value of the ships that were captured totaled almost 24 million dollars. This was a fortune in the late eighteenth century. Added to this were the 16,000 prisoners taken by the privateers, the vast majority of whom were sailors. The sheer audacity of the American privateers is evident in their fearless raids against British ships carried on just off the coast of England. American captains would sail for the English coast, capture ships, and escort them to French ports for the sale of their goods. These daring exploits had a tremendous effect on British trade and morale. Britain’s power rested on her naval strength, and her well-developed merchant marine fleet fed her colonial empire. The privateers deprived Britain of her source of strength. Aside from the monetary loss from captures, privateering had ramifications throughout the British economy. By taking the war to her coasts, privateers were able to impact Britain’s trade routes with all of her colonies. Eventually, British commerce was crippled.
Parliament was forced to end the war with the colonies almost entirely due to economic motives. The system of privateering had wreaked enough havoc upon the British economic system, and was critical to the American rebels winning the War of Independence.