British Justification, Causes Of The American Revolution Essay, Research Paper
A Non-Oppressive View of Things
The American Revolution should not have happened. The British were not tyrannical, oppressive rulers although the American colonies perceived them to be so. That perception led to revolution and independence.
Although Great Britain emerged victorious in the Seven Years War, it left Great Britain with significant debt. The British looked to America to help it. First the British began enforcing existing laws like the Navigation Acts, which put limits on colonial imports and exports. To enforce these laws better, the British passed the ?Writs of Assistance? that gave officials warrants to search anything or anyone suspected of smuggling, anywhere or anytime. British warships would even patrol American harbors to catch potential smugglers. These smugglers, if caught, would be tried in the newly established Admiralty courts. In these courts, the accused had no right to trial by jury, and the judges pocketed a percentage of the fines. The British viewed these courts as insurance to make sure smuggling stopped; juries composed of Americans might be biased, so they were done away with.
The British also implemented new taxes. The Sugar act of 1764 sought to reduce smuggling, which occurred partly as a result of the earlier Molasses Act. This gave British possessions in the Caribbean the upper hand in sugar trade, which in the British view helped the empire as a whole, but to Americans, and especially the merchants, this put limits on their opportunities. The Currency Act, passed about this time forbade the printing of colonial currency. British merchants benefited because they didn?t have to deal with inflated American currencies. The Americans felt they were at an economic disadvantage as very little sterling was circulating throughout the colonies.
American refusal to pay taxes did not help the British pay off the war debts, nor did it help pay for costs of garrisoning the American colonies. Soon the Quartering Act was passed, directing the colonies to provide quarters for British soldiers. Americans found this oppressive because it meant that soldiers were placed in colonial homes. In 1764 Parliament passed the Stamp Act, putting a duty on most printed materials. This was a normal tax for the British as it had been going on in Britain for a long time, and it made sense that the rest of their empire would pay the same tax. This placed a burden on merchants and the colonial elite who did most legal transactions and read the newspapers. Also passed in the same year was the Declaratory Act, which stated that the colonies were subject to the will of Parliament. This made a lot of sense to the British, as Parliament was their ruling body; but, to the colonies who had become used to their own government during the years of salutory neglect, this was a direct threat to their way of life.
Three years later more duties were imposed on the colonies through the Townshend Acts, which placed taxes on lead glass, paper, and tea. It reorganized the American Customs Service, which enforced the Navigation Act, the Sugar Act, and now the Townshend Acts. The Americans responded to this in many ways, but primarily by boycotting all British goods and by implementing a non-importation agreement. After losing much money, the British decided to repeal the Townshend duties and others, except the one on tea; it was retained to let the colonists know that Parliament still had power. This was the right thing for Britain to do, as it reminded the colonies that they were in fact under British rule.
In 1773 the Tea Act was passed giving the British East India Company the monopoly on tea in America. This act would severely lower the price of tea in America, but local American merchants feared that if the British could control the tea trade, they would soon control other industries. The colonists fought this by preventing British ships from landing in some ports, or by locking the tea away. In Boston, an incident called the Boston Tea Party happened in which crates of British tea were thrown in the harbor. This outrageous act of lawlessness against the British government, after they had done what they thought was a favor, prompted the British government to pass the Coercive Acts. These did many things: they closed the port of Boston until the East India Co. was paid for the lost tea; they modified the Massachusetts charter; and they ensured that British officials accused of a crime would be tried in England. The Quebec Acts were also passed in Conjunction with the Coercive Acts. These reestablished French civil law throughout these areas, and gave religious tolerance to the Roman Catholics of the area. The British did this to warn Americans further that if they didn?t behave, they would be subject to punishment.
Throughout the 18th century Parliament passed many laws and taxes directed at the American colonies. The colonies viewed all of these as different forms of oppression, and felt that the British government was on a mission to oppress them, in reality the opposite was true. As a result of the huge debt Great Britain had after the Seven Years war, Britain was forced to tax the colonies on a much larger scale. As the colonies didn?t even pay enough to support their own protection, the Quartering Act was passed to save money. Another act that provoked much opposition throughout America was the Stamp Act, that was completely justified in the British view; they felt it was a fair tax as all of Great Britain paid it too. The American view of the British as an economic oppressor was also false. The British felt America was as much a part of the empire as any, and felt American colonies should be subject to the same controls as the rest of the empire. They weren?t deliberately trying to oppress anyone, and they weren?t tyrannical rulers; they were just trying to run a vast empire, and needed all the different parts of the empire to take an equal part in it. They needed the Americans to pay taxes, and they needed the Americans to buy sugar from the British East Indies, so each part would work together to help the empire work as a whole.