This post consists of Causes of the American Revolution in a descriptive manner.
Causes of the American Revolution, Causes of the American Revolution
The American struggle for freedom was a conflict of economic interests primarily between Great Britain and her Colonies. But from many angles, it was a revolt against the social and political system of that time which had lost its significance for America. In other words, economic, political, social and religious forces worked together in the American Revolution. The American Colonies rose in rebellion in order to retain their liberty, freedom, and autonomy. It is noteworthy that the colonists lived in diversity and most people did not have causes of complaint against England; even then certain circumstances bound them in unity.
One of the main causes of the American revolution was the clash in ideas and principles held dear by the native of England and the American colonists. Colonists did not intend to snap political connection from their motherland but they were not prepared to see the colonies exploited for profit only. They wanted equality and autonomous rule for themselves. The middle class hated the privileges and luxuries enjoyed by the colonial rulers. This class desired the establishment of economic, social and political democracy in the colonies. Being an awakened class, the middle class was full of excessive discontent and frustration. England had been following mercantilism, an ideology which had emerged in the economic field since the later half of the 16th century. When the colonies grew in size and importance, the British government felt keen on establishing control over them. Firstly, Britain appointed governors to rule them and the salary was to be borne by the colonial exchequer. Secondly, the British merchants were interested in deriving benefits from a policy which Britain was to adopt arbitrarily and implement it in her colonies in America. This policy was called mercantilist policy. Under the mercantilism policies, England imposed many restrictions on production in American colonies
Causes of the American Revolution, Causes of the American Revolution
The colonists were made to sell their goods only to the English Merchants and to buy foreign goods after paying duty at an English port. Furthermore, the colonists were not to compete with the English manufacturers. Opposition to these mercantilist regulations was widespread and some of the merchants in the colonies maintained their trade contacts with the enemies of Britain.
While a new spirit was developing in America, the British still stuck to the old mercantilist theory. They also did not recognize that the power of the British Parliament could be subjected to limitations. Further, they did not share the Ameri-can restrictions by some kind of fundamental law.
The Seven Years War (1756-63) gave Great Britain a much larger American empire. It also placed her under a heavy war debt. The long war strained her resources to such an extent that her government started imposing heavy duties on the manufactured goods. Since experience during the war had shown that the colonies were very reluctant to cooperate with each other for mutual protection and to pay any additional taxes, it seemed necessary for the British government to resort to compulsion. The successive British government since 1763 were of the view that they were not acting illegally by imposing additional taxes. But they were seeking to hold the colonies in their traditional position of subordination just at the time when the most vigorous elements in the colonial population were beginning to feel that they were entitled to equality. In view of the fundamental differences between the British and American conception of the nature of the empire and powers of British Parliament, it appeared unlikely that conflicts could be avoided permanently.
When the French lost Canada to Britain after Seven Years War, the colonies no larger feared of a French attack. It was this situation which gave the colonist courage and self-confidence. But the British government under King George- III, was not prepared to give them a large measure of independence. King George-III forced the cabinet to secure parliamentary sanction for imposing new taxes on the colonists. The royal officials in the colonies were ordered to enforce the mercantilist trade regulations. It gave customs officials writs of assistance or general search warrants empowering them to search ships and warehouses for smuggled goods. This aroused stout opposition. It was argued that the writs of assistance violated the fundamental rights of citizens and were therefore illegal. This argument reflected the American conviction that the powers of the British government were limited by fundamental laws.
The British government by means of a Royal Proclamation made in 1763, ordered settlers not to move beyond the traditional border on the western side lest they provoke the Red Indians.
It stopped the colonists from marching towards the West and they considered the British government to be their enemy.
In 1763, the British government decided to maintain an army in North America in order to guard against possible Red Indian raids and French attempts at reconquest. The British government led by George Greenville felt that since it was needed for the defence of the colonies, a part of the cost should be borne by the colonies.
Greenville proposed four regulations which affected the colonies. Two important regulations were Sugar Act (Molasses Act 1764) and Stamp Act (1765). The other two were Currency Act and Quartering Act.
Through the Sugar Act, duty was imposed on molasses imported by the colonists. Customs officials were ordered to show more energy and strictness in collecting duties. British ships were instructed to seize smugglers and an admiralty court was set up to try smuggling cases. Duties were also imposed upon some other colonial imports. It was to compel the colonists to contribute towards meeting the expenses of British troops stationed in the colonies. This was followed by the Stamp Act.
The Stamp Act declared that stamp duties were to be paid on newspapers and legal commercial documents. This was the first time that the British government had levied a direct tax on the colonies. The American felt that the Stamp Act would drain the colonies of money and make their debts to the British merchants more intolerable. They believed that taxation without representation was tyranny. They accepted trade regulations by the British Parliament as legitimate, but felt that British Parliament’s imposition of direct taxes was contrary to fundamental law and natural rights. The opposition took the form not only of resolutions by colonial assemblies and of a collective protest drafted by a Congress of delegates from nine colonies, but also of violent popular demonstrations. The colonists also devised the instrument of general agreement to stop importing British goods. British merchants suffered heavy losses and urged the British government to give way. By this time Greenville was succeeded by Marquess of Rockingham. Rockingham repealed the Stamp Act, lowered the molasses duty and passed a Declaratory Act, which affirmed the principle of the supremacy of the British parliament over the colonies.
Rockingham was replaced by William Pitt and, Townshend became the Finance Minister. He levied customs duties on five goods (Tea, lead, paper, coin-metal and paints) which were imported by America from England. He explained that by levying import duties which were in the nature of indirect taxes, he was only complying with the viewpoint of the colonists. John Dickinson, a conservative Rennsylvanian lawyer, while accepting the right of British Parliament to regulate trade, denied that it could levy taxes, direct or indirect.
Riots against the British law broke out at several places. Besides raising a storm of protest the merchants of Boston, Philadelphia and New York resorted to the boycott of the British goods. The condition in Boston city was very deplorable. The regiment of British regulars stationed in Boston to prevent smuggling fired their guns on a protesting mob, in which four or five persons were killed. This came to be known as Boston massacre.
The new taxes could not be collected. The British traders were overwhelmed with fear and on their insistence Lord North, who took place of Townshend after his death, repealed all duties, except on tea.
After these successful agitations it was quite clear to popular leaders like Sam Adams who led Boston Mob, that none of the basis issues had been settled. In 1772 Adams set up throughout Massachusetts a network of committees of correspondence to organise resistance to British authority. This idea was copied by Jefferson in Virginia and by similar leaders in other colonies. As a result a real inter- colonial political organisation began to take place.
The British government made yet another mistake in 1773 which proved to be very costly. In 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act, granting the financially troubled British East India Company an exclusive monopoly on tea exported to the American colonies. This Act agitated colonists even further: although the new monopoly meant cheaper tea, many Americans the believed that Britain was trying to dupe them into accepting the hated tax.
Causes of the American Revolution, Causes of the American Revolution, Causes of the American Revolution
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