When is it appropriate to revolt against the government or ruling body?
In the 1700’s, England was the most powerful country in the world. England had added Scotland, Ireland and Wales to is kingdom and had even taken over Spanish slave trade Colonies in the new world were producing large amounts of cotton, tobacco, sugar, etc. There were very few restrictions on trade which was good for business.
However, in1756, Europe once again broke out into war. This war was known as the Seven Years War. Prussia went to war with the Russians, Austrians and French over territorial disputes. However, the greatest of these conflicts took place in North America.
This conflict is commonly known as the French and Indian War fought between the French and English. The French had smaller colonies and trading posts throughout North America while the British had larger, successful colonies. The French allied themselves with the Native Americans whom they had good relations with. The British settlers (Americans) fought the along side the British against the French.
The James Fennimore Cooper novel, “Last of the Mohicans” takes place during the French and Indian War. It is the tale of the last people of the Mohican tribe and their adopted white son, Hawkeye. The Mohicans ally themselves with the British and fight against the French and Algonquin tribes. Hawkeye falls in love with a British general’s daughter.
The war is very bloody and each side suffers many casualties. The British end up winning the war and the French lose control of lands in Louisiana and some Caribbean islands Despite it’s victory, the war had nearly doubled England’s national debt. The King then sought sources of revenue to pay off the debt.
Britain needed to repay it’s war debts and the solution was to tax the colonies. Two years after the war, Parliament passes the Stamp Act (1765) which required all documents (newspapers, magazines, mail, legal documents) to be printed on paper from London with a special seal or stamp. The colonists boycotted this act and it was later repealed. Parliament then passes the Tea Act (1773) This act again put a tax on all tea except from the British East India Company. This was done to force colonists to buy tea from the British company (which was going bankrupt at the time)
Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty sent a message to the governor of Massachusetts, demanding that British ships carrying tea leave the harbor. When they refused, dressed like Mohawk Indians, colonists stormed the ships, split open the chests, and dumped tea into the harbor under the full moon.
Since 1768, British troops were stationed in the colonies to help enforce unpopular British legislation (laws, customs, etc.) Amid ongoing tense relations between the people and soldiers, a mob formed and subjected verbal abuse and harassment towards the soldiers. As the tensions built, people started throwing rocks at the soldiers. The soldiers then opened fire on the crowd, killing 5 and injuring 6 others.
The Intolerable Acts • Parliament shut down the port of Boston- no ship could enter or leave the harbor • Town meetings could only be held once a year without governor’s permission
It also included the Quartering Act- British soldiers could force citizens to house troops in their homes.
The First Continental Congress- September 1774 Colonial leaders from 13 colonies call a meeting in Philadelphia Colonists agree to back Massachusetts and boycott all British goods until Intolerable Acts were repealed. Each colony also set up its own militia (army of civilians)
The first battles take place in 1775 at Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts) The British heard that the colonials were storing arms. Colonial Minutemen fought and lost the battle at Lexington but forced the British to retreat at Concord.
Thomas Jefferson drafts the Declaration of Independence using many of the ideals presented by John Locke and other Enlightened thinkers which formally announces the colonies’ intent to be independent on July 4th, 1776.
Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. The majority of others signed on August 2nd after the original, rough draft was revised and a cleaner copy was produced.
John Hancock Charles Thomson President of Congress Secretary of Congress
The war has officially started. Britain has better trained soldiers, a huge navy, plenty of natural resources and the support of about 1/3 of colonists (Loyalists) and some Native tribes. The Colonists are not well equipped and a bit unorganized but they have home advantage, strong leadership from people like George Washington and are strongly dedicated to winning their independence. The French helped the American colonies by supplying them with arms and other supplies. They also recognized the U.S. as a sovereign nation. However, the British vastly underestimated their opponent.
After six, long years of fighting, the American army which was made up of volunteers, was finally able to defeat the well trained British army at Yorktown in 1781. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 and officially recognized the independence of the American Colonies.
The epic film, The Patriot, follows Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a French and Indian War hero, as he leads a Colonial militia against the British during the American Revolution. The film also stars Heath Ledger.
The American Revolution would be an inspiration to many other revolutions such as the French and Latin American Revolutions. Filled with Enlightened ideas, many other countries constitutions have mimicked the U.S. Constitution.