Victory in the Seven Years’ War made Britain the master of a vastly enlarged imperial domain inNorth America.But victory – including the subsequent need to garrison 10,000 troops along the sprawling Americanfrontier – was painfully costly. The London govt. wanted the colonists to shoulder some of thefinancial burden. This British colonial policy reinforced an emerging sense of American politicalidentity and helped to precipitate the American Revolution.The eventual conflict was by no means inevitable. The commercial, military, and cultural bondsbetween the two were powerful. The truth is that Americans were reluctant revolutionaries.Until late in the day, they sought only to claim the “rights of Englishmen,” not to separate fromthe mother country.What began as a squabble about economic policies soon exposed irreconcilable differences overcherished political principles.
THE DEEP ROOTS of REVOLUTIONIn a broad sense, America was arevolutionary force from the day of itsdiscovery. England’s colonies weresettled largely by emigrants who weremalcontents in spirit. For one reason oranother, they did not fit into Old Warsociety. Pioneer life bred independentthought and the privileges of self-govt.had been established.Two ideas, in particular, had taken rootin the minds of the American colonialelite by the 1750’s:1.Republicanism – opposition to hierarchical and authoritarian institutions, such as aristocracy & monarchy. Distance weakens authority; great distance weakens2.“Radical Whigs” – British political authority greatly. So it came as an especially jolting political commentators widely read shock when Britain after 1763 tried to enclose its by colonists. They feared the American colonists more snugly in its grip. threat to liberty posed by the arbitrary power of the king & his ministers relative to elected members of parliament.
Benjamin Franklin played many roles in colonial America. In 1767, he commissioned thecartoon shown below to illustrate the importance of the North American colonies to theBritish Empire. Was his purpose to encourage independence or reconciliation? Towhom is his cartoon principally addressed?
MERCANTILISM & COLONIAL GRIEVANCESBritain created many of its upcoming problems through its “absentmindedness” in establishing andadministering its colonies.Mercantile Theory: 1. The theory shaped & justified British exploitation of the American colonies (centralized power – political and economic) 2. Lay behind the policies of all the colonizing powers from the 16th-18th centuries 3. Meant to achieve economic and military self-sufficiency by exporting more than they imported (keep gold & silver in Britain) 4. The colonies existed only to help the Mother country prosper
From time to time, Parliament passed laws to regulate the mercantilist system. Thefirst of these, the Navigation Law of 1650, was aimed at rival Dutch shippers trying toelbow their way into the American carrying trade. What did the law require of thecolonist traders?
British policy also inflicted a currency shortage on the colonies – explain how.Financial need forced the colonies to print their own money, which swiftly depreciated.Parliament was forced to prohibit colonial legislatures from printing paper currencyand from passing bankruptcy laws.The British crown also reserved the right to nullify any legislation passed by thecolonial assemblies if such laws undermined the mercantile system.
Americans grumbled that their welfare was being sacrificed for the well-being ofBritish commercial interests. The colonists found a powerful ally against mercantilismin famed economist Adam Smith.
THE STAMP TAX UPROARVictory-flushed Britain emerged from the Seven Years’ War holding one of the biggestempires in the world – and also, the biggest debt, some 140 million pounds, about half ofwhich had been incurred defending the American colonies. To justify and service thatdebt to the British people, British officials moved to shift a portion of the financialburden to the colonies. Prime Minister George Grenville first aroused the resentment of the colonists in 1763 by ordering the British navy to begin strictly enforcing the Navigation Laws. He also secured from Parliament the so-called Sugar Act of 1764, the first law passed for raising tax revenue in the colonies for the crown.
After bitter protests from the colonists, the duties were lowered substantially, andthe agitation died down. But resentment was kept burning by the Quartering Act of1765.
Also in 1765, Grenville imposed the most odious measure of all: a stamp tax, to raiserevenues to support the new military force. The Stamp Act mandated the use ofstamped paper or the affixing of stamps, certifying payment of the tax. What typesof items were taxable?
Grenville regarded all of these measures as reasonable and just. He was simply askingthe Americans to pay a fair share of the costs for their own defense, through taxesthat were already familiar in Britain (far heavier in Britain).Americans were angry with Grenville’s “fiscal aggression,” which struck as much at localliberties as economic ones. Why was a British army needed at all in the colonies? Theylashed back violently and angry throats raised the cry, “No taxation withoutrepresentation.” Why was this ironic?
The Americans made a distinction between “legislation” and “taxation.” They concededthe right of Parliament to legislate about matters that affected the entire empire,including the regulation of trade. But they denied the right of Parliament, in which noAmericans were seated, to impose taxes on Americans.Grenville dismissed these American protests as “technicalities.” The power of Parliamentwas supreme and undivided, and in any case, the Americans were represented inParliament based on the theory of virtual representation. Every member of Parliamentrepresented all British subjects. Americans scoffed at the notion of virtual representation. And truthfully, they did not really want direct representation in Parliament – why? Thus, the London govt. and the Americans could not reconcile the distinction between “legislative” authority and “taxing” authority. This forced Americans to deny the authority of Parliament altogether and to begin considering their own political independence.
PARLIAMENT FORCED to REPEAL the STAMP ACTColonial outcries against the hated stamp tax took various forms. The mostconspicuous assemblage was the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, which brought to NewYork City delegates from nine colonies. The members drew up a statement of theirrights and grievances and implored the king and Parliament to repeal the measure. The Stamp Act Congress, which was largely ignored in England, made little splash at the time in America. The greatest achievement was the bringing together of leaders from different and sometimes rival colonies.
More effective than the congress was the widespread adoption of non-importationagreements against British goods, especially textiles. The boycott was surprisinglyeffective and it was yet another step toward colonial union.
THE TOWNSHEND TEA TAX AND THE BOSTON “MASSACRE”Following Grenville was Charles Townshend, who persuaded Parliament in 1767 to pass the TownshendActs. The most important of these new regulations was a light import duty on glass, white lead,paper, paint, and tea. Townshend justified these duties by distinguishing between internal andexternal taxes. Flushed with their recent victory over the stamp tax, the colonists were in a rebellious mood, especially over the tea tax, for an estimated 1 million people drank tea daily. The Townshend revenues were earmarked to pay for the salaries of the royal governors and judges in America. Nonimportation agreements were quickly revived, but they proved less effective than in the past – why?
British officials, faced with abreakdown of law and order, landedtwo regiments of troops in Boston in1768, and the troops did not mixwell with the colonial population.A clash was inevitable, for thecolonists resented the presence ofthese red-coat “ruffians.”
THE SEDITIOUS COMMITTEES OF CORRESPONDENCEBy 1770 King George III, then only 32 years old, was strenuously attempting to assertthe power of the British monarchy. Describe his personal attributes. The ill-timed Townshend Acts had failed to produce revenue, though they did produce near rebellion. Lord North, bowing to various pressures, finally persuaded Parliament to repeal the Townshend revenue duties. But the three-pence toll on tea, the tax the colonists found most offensive, was retained to keep alive the principle of parliamentary taxation.
Discontent in America continued to be fanned by numerous incidents, including theredoubled efforts of the British officials to enforce the Navigation Laws. Resistancewas kindled by a master propagandist and engineer of rebellion, Samuel Adams ofBoston. He was ultra-sensitive to infractions of colonial rights. He appealed to the“trained mob.” Adams’s contribution was to organize in Massachusetts the local committees of correspondence. Their chief function was to spread the spirit of resistance by interchanging letters and keeping alive opposition to British policy. Inter-colonial committees of correspondence were the next logical step, and they evolved directly into the first American congresses.
Once more the colonists rose up to defy theLondon govt. No tea ever reached consigneesin Philadelphia & New York. The shipsreturned to England to avoid armed conflict.In Annapolis & Charleston, local merchantsrefused delivery under duress.Only in Boston did a British officialstubbornly refused to be cowed. Mass. Gov.Thomas Hutchinson refused to back down. Hedid not like the tea tax, but he stronglybelieved the colonists had no right to floutthe law.
By a fateful coincidence, the “Intolerable Acts” were accompanied in 1774 by theQuebec Act. It was British policy for administering French subjects in Canada. TheFrench were guaranteed their Catholic religion, and they were permitted to retainmany of their old customs and traditions. And it extended the boundary of Quebec allthe way to the Ohio River.Explain why American colonists viewed the Quebec Act as especially noxious anddangerous to their future welfare. From the British standpoint, why was thisshrewd legislation?
THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS and BLOODSHEDAmerican dissenters responded sympathetically to the plight of Massachusetts bysending food to Boston, the stricken city. Most memorable of the responses to the“Intolerable Acts” was the summoning of a Continental Congress in 1774 in Philadelphia.Twelve of the thirteen colonies were represented. What was its purpose? What did the delegates debate? What symbolic actions came out of this Congress?
The fateful drift toward war continued. Parliament rejected the Congress’s petitions. In America,muskets were gathered and men began to drill openly. In April 1775 the British commander inBoston sent a detachment of troops to nearby Lexington and Concord to seize stores of colonialmunitions and to arrest “rebel” ringleaders, Sam Adams and John Hancock. At Lexington thecolonial “Minute Men” refused to disperse fast enough and shots were fired, killing 8 Americans.At Concord, the British were forced to retreat by the Americans, suffering approx.300 casualties. The British got a taste of the “unconventional” warfare that theAmericans would employ. Britain now had a war on its hands.
The cartoon, “The Wise Men ofGotham and Their Goose,” is from aLondon magazine in 1775 after theRevolutionary War had broken out.To what audience is it addressed?What are the cartoonist’ssympathies in the conflict betweenBritain and its American colonies?To what extent does the Britishcartoon of 1775 express sentimentssimilar to Franklin’s image of 1767?
ROAD TO REVOLUTION QUIZZEShttp://www.historyteacher.net/USProjects/USQuizzes/RoadToRevolution1.htmhttp://www.historyteacher.net/USProjects/USQuizzes/RoadToRevolution2.htmhttp://www.historyteacher.net/USProjects/Quizzes5-6/RoadToRevolution5.htm