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PinkMonkey Study Guide - American History

3. 1 Causes of the Revolution

British attempts to establish a strong imperialist rule in the new colonies backfired. In the long run it served to unite the 13 colonies against the Empire in London.

By the mid 1700s, through a series of military victories, England removed the French and Spanish threats in America. The wars with Spain and France had doubled the war debts. So the king decided that the colonies should also contribute by paying more taxes so as to relieve England of the burden of debt. This was done by a strict enforcement of the Navigation Acts.

Meanwhile, with the removal of the French control in the west of America, there was a greater need for an alternative, but stricter administration. Moreover, the relations between the Red Indians and the White traders required to be managed. This was chiefly due to an Indian uprising (led by Chief Pontiac) against the British. This Indian tribe was sympathetic to the French. The uprising was crushed after two years of bloodshed. The result was that it drained the British treasury again. In 1763, a Royal Proclamation barred whites from all lands, west of the Appalachians - which was given exclusively for the Indians. Moreover, the trade of fur was further regulated by making it necessary for only licensed traders to buy and sell fur. This was greatly resented by traders and speculators in the New World.

And as if this were not enough, the British Parliament passed a series of laws, to raise custom revenue. This was done under the Revenue Act (1764). This was followed by the Stamp Act (1765) which was an internal tax. This law taxed newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets, legal documents, insurance policies, etc. The taxes had to be paid in the form of a stamp, purchased from the collectors (to be appointed from among the colonies) and affixed on the particular item or document. Through this Act, the Grenville Ministry in England hoped to raise 60,000/- Pounds as revenue.

This greatly angered the colonies. Writing about the act, a jurist from New York, William Smith said: With a "single stroke," Britain had "lost...the affection of all her colonies." The House of Burgesses in Virginia, criticized King George III for the new legislation. The members later passed a resolution condemning the act and stated that the right to tax should remain in the hands of the people or their representatives. Soon similar resolutions were adopted by other colonies too.

The assembly at Massachusetts, called the Massachusetts General Court went a step further. The General court invited representatives from all the colonies to meet and decide on a joint program, opposing the Act. This invitation which was accepted by all the colonies, can be considered the first step towards the unification of the scattered settlements in America.

Meanwhile, in Boston, a group called the íSons of Libertyí started burning effigies of the new tax commissioner to protest against the new tax. These protests often took a violent form damaging property etc. Several prominent leaders frowned upon the "Patriots" (name given to people who were opposed to the tax) like John Adams and Joshiah Quincy.

The meeting of the delegates from colonies called the Stamp Act Congress was held in October 1765. They prepared a joint declaration asserting that such taxes cannot be imposed on people without them consent. Further they demanded that these taxes, which affected American trade, must be repealed.

The feelings against the Act were so strong that some 200 merchants from New York decided to take new orders for British goods only if the Stamp Act was canceled. Other traders later joined these merchants in Boston, Salem, Philadelphia and other ports. Due to such a stiff opposition, the parliament in England was forced to repeal the Stamp Act in 1766. But the Americans could not rejoice for long.

In London, a new ministry came into office in 1767. It pledged to reduce land taxes in Britain. To make up for the lost revenue, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend, formulated the Townshend Act. Under this Act, Britain was to levy duties on tea, paper, paint, glass, lead etc. Quartering Act (1765) which required the colonies to provide the British troops in America with barracks and items like candles, utensils, beer/ cider or rum, etc. were already quite unpopular. The duties under the Townshend Act, caused widespread protests everywhere in the American colonies.

The Massachusetts legislature issued a circular, which declared that only their own assemblies should tax the colonies. The Virginia Burgesses supported the views expressed in the circular, by passing a resolution based on a similar idea. Prominent American leaders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson favored this resolution.

Several pamphlets were brought out to make the common American aware of these tyrannical tax legislationís imposed on them. These leaflets demanded more freedom for colonies, but did not speak about breaking away from the mother Country. The most moving statement made on the subject was John Dickinsonís - Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer. A lawyer from Philadelphia, Dickinson, in his Letters posed as a simple Pennsylvanian, warned the Americans against violence and expressed deep affection for "mother Britain." On the issue of taxation, he very firmly stated: "we cannot be free without being secure in our property that we cannot be secure in our property, if without our concert others may as by right take it away that taxes imposed on us by parliament do thus take it away."

Such pamphlets convinced the Americans that external taxation (on trade and commerce) to regulate overseas trade was valid. Taxes imposed to generate revenue without the consent of the people are an attack on their natural rights. Owing to this, emotions ran high against the Acts in the colonies, especially against the British army stationed there. These feelings reached their climax with a violent incident involving some British soldiers and American civilians. The incident, now known as the Boston Massacre sent shockwaves throughout the colonies.

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Table of Contents

3.0 - Chronology of Major Events in this Period
3.1 - Causes
3.2 - The Events Leading tothe war of Independence
3.3 - The First Continental Congress
3.4 - The declaration of Independence
3.5 - The Course of the War
3.6 - War and Peace
3.7 - Articles ofConfederation
3.8 - The Formation and Ratification of the Constitution
3.9 - Points to Remember

Chapter 4


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