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From about 1768 on, the British had boots on the ground and ships on the seas around the American Colonies. Officially, they were a (cough, cough) "peacekeeping" force until the war actually began, but anyone who's read Catching Fire knows what that means.
They were there to enforce British policy, and on occasion, they probably did pull some Capitol-worthy stunts. However, the actual level of pre-war aggression by British troops has definitely gotten hyped up in popular American memory.
The truth is that being stationed in the colonies was no picnic for a lot of the British military. They were a long way from home, privates barely made enough money to feed themselves, and they were policing a hostile populace. To make matters worse, the war wasn't all that popular in old Mother England.
Late in the 20th century, historians would begin calling it "Britain's Vietnam." Also, just about everyone agreed that fighting in America was the worst because: giant bugs and other unknown wild animals, crazy undergrowth that scratched you up, never knowing whose side anyone was on...the list went on and on.
Also, Britain's strength was its Navy, and they didn't even get to use it much except for blockades, so that was no fun.