Prelude To The American Revolution Essay, Research Paper
Prelude to the American Revolution
The American Revolutionary War was fought by the colonists of America to win Recognition by Britain and the world as an independent nation. Colonial opposition to the British government began acts such as the Stamp act, the Townshend acts and the coercive acts and many other more insignificant laws. These actions by the British government triggered a sever dislike for Britain and the people of America began to unite in their opposition.
The French and Indian War Took place from 1754 to 1763. British soldiers fought this war in order to protect their country’s claims on land in the colonies. The colonists began to resent Britain more and more due to the constant military presence in the colonies. The people of the colonies did not appreciate the War that Britain had waged. This war against the French and their Indian allies had cost the British a lot of money and they felt the colonies should pay for a share of the costs. In almost a childlike manner the colonists refused to pay their dues for being protected by the British army.
The Sugar Act was passed by the British Parliament in 1764 to help pay for the cost of regulating the colonies and to help pay for British debt. This Sugar act was designed to collect revenue and the people of the colonies started to smuggle sugar into the colonies rather than buy it from Britain. Because of the smuggling the British began to lose money and soon they started a policy of much stricter control on shipping and assigned legal documents known as Writs of Assistance which gave British officers the right to search any man’s warehouse for smuggled goods. Along with the Writs of Assistance the people who were charged with crimes were forced to stand trial in an Admiralty court and not be judged by a jury of their peers. This sudden and very strict enforcement of regulations was shocking to Americans who had gotten used to the years of salutary neglect of the British.
Another new law imposed on the colonies was the Quartering Act of 1765. This act required each of the colonies to provide housing and food for 10,000 British soldiers. The Colonies resented the invasion of British soldiers, and they felt abused by the British. Colonial leaders opposed this new law and cries of “A man’s home is his castle” began to spread through out the colonies. Ultimately the colonies did not obey this law and it helped to build support for the thought of rebellion.
The Stamp Act was introduced to the colonies in 1765. It required all printed materials to be taxed, including newspapers, pamphlets, bills, legal documents, commercial contracts, deeds, licenses, almanacs, dice and also playing cards to carry the tax stamp. The Americans, who already disliked the few taxes imposed on them were simply outraged by the Stamp act. This was the first time that a tax would be imposed on them that was collected directly by Britain. The money would not go to pay for any services or improvements to the colonies and the people felt it was useless.
The tax sparked immediate opposition by nearly every person in the colonies. The Son’s of Liberty, led by Samuel Adams began to organize a vast colonial boycott on the stamp act. It was ignored by nearly every person, and the people that obeyed were sometimes harmed and always ostracized by the people of his or her town. The British government literally lost money trying to collect this tax. The people of the colonies and the leaders did not obey these laws because they felt that if they were going to be taxed by the British they should be represented in the parliament. The British However, argued the idea of virtual representation which meant only that the Americans were being taxed thoughtfully, and they didn’t need representation. To the Americans this was nothing more than a foolish way of saying that they were not being represented. The people of the Colonies began to use the slogan ” No taxation without representation”. With the help of the slogan and the many leaflets being circulated the opposition became too great and Britain had to repeal the law in 1776.
After more than 50 years of salutary neglect, the new regulations concerned the colonists. They were alarmed by the economic costs imposed on them by these reforms, especially with the post-war depression going on. People had always been lightly taxed in America and they did not want their money to be used to support British officials. They seemed to be under the false pretenses that maintaining the military defenses in the colonies was cheap and they didn’t account for the fact that the money to house them had to come from some place. After all, the military forces were there for the benefit of the colonists.
The English Parliament then passes the Townshend Revenue Acts in 1768. These acts were set forth to help pay for Britain’s debt. The Townshend acts were taxes on such goods as lead, paint, paper, glass and tea. The acts were thought to be reasonable by Britain and the British officials were shocked that the colonists were so annoyed by the taxes. America’s protest to these taxes seemed to be getting stronger, the people of the colonies were angry at Britain and they began to defy British authority with the intent to do harm to it. American leaders urged that all Americans stop buying any British goods that were not essential. The problem with this was that some goods were more essential to some people than others, however the spirit of the people prevailed and they managed to organize a strong boycott to all luxury goods from Britain. The resent for the hardship that the people had to endure during this time began to build up and it ultimately resulted in the Boston massacre. The Boston massacre took place on March 5th. A mob of angry people formed around a few British troops which were standing guard. The mob began to shout angrily at the young soldiers and throw snowballs and rocks at them. At some point in the confrontation one of the soldiers accidentally shot his musket into the air. When his fellow soldiers heard the shot they all volley fired into the crowd of people killing 5 of them. This event was widely publicized and eventually Britain had to repeal the Townshend acts. However they retained the tea tax because of the Tea act.
In the Tea act, the British East Indian Company was allowed to disregard the Navigation Act of 1663 and could ship tea directly to the American colonies. By cutting out the middle man the British East India company was able to beat out all the prices in the colonies, Even the price of smuggled tea. The British had a monopoly and they believed their merchants would begin to profit from it. But despite the monopoly the colonists refused to buy the British tea and instead they continued to buy smuggled tea from the Netherlands. The American feeling of rebellion was deeply ingrained and the British were wrong once again. The British merchants continued to suffer.
In an act of protest to the Tea act a group of men who had been drinking decided to go to the harbor and vandalize the British ships and goods, this is known as the Boston Tea Party. Some of the men wore Feathers in their hats and painted their faces to look like Indians. This was not done to try to fool the British as many believe, it was in fact done simply because the men were drunk and wanted to be clowns. The men managed to damage some ships and they dumped all the British tea into the water. The British were angered by this action and offered a large reward for the capture of the men who had done this.
With the Townshend acts came a strong feeling of rebellion. Already a large group of Americans were talking of ending Britain’s grip on America by declaring independence. Though many Americans were for Independence the majority of the country stayed loyal to Britain for the time being.
Britain was indeed outraged by the Boston Tea Party and they wanted Boston to be punished. Parliament passed a series of measures to attempt to gain control over the colonies. These measures were called the Coercive or the Intolerable acts. These acts included the Boston Port Act where the British navy blockaded the Boston sea port and stop the export and import of all goods. The people of Boston spent months with almost no food. Also the Coercive Act included The Massachusetts Government Act which forbade all government and town meetings in the colony. Instead of Making the rest of the colonies fearful of Britain the colonies were more untied than ever.
The Intolerable Acts provoked the other colonies to declare their support for Massachusetts and so the first Continental Congress was convened in Philadelphia in 1774. It called for civil disobedience against the British authorities in protest of the acts and promoted the formation of local militia units. A month after the first meeting, a Declaration of Resolves was adopted that opposed the Coercive Acts and the Quebec Act, which gave territory that belonged to colonies to Canada, among other measures taken by the British. The rights of the colonists were asserted, including the rights to “life, liberty and property.”
The Continental Congress resolved to draft an appeal for fair treatment to King George and to the British and Canadian people. Independence from Britain was still being rejected, almost 2/3 of the people believed that independence was too drastic and thought that this could be resolved with peaceful diplomatic policies. It was not until much later that the party urging independence gained the upper hand.
On November of 1774, the king declared the colonies open rebellion. General Gage had been sent to Massachusetts as a military and civil governor to repress the signs of rebellion in the colony. He dispatched a small force to seize illegal military stores at Lexington and to arrest two prominent rebels, none other than John Hancock and Samuel Adams. The Militia force did not find the men they were looking for however they seized many gun carriages and weapons that could be used in a rebellion. When the troops were ordered to break down and burn the carts, which carried the guns, they did it in the middle of town. Thousands of people from towns around Lexington Saw Smoke rising from the town and assumed that the British had attacked the town, The men numbered in about 4,000 and they all converged on the British troops and attacked the small force of a few hundred men. This false alarm sparked the war of independence with Britain.
The colonist’s main reason to start the rebellion was a human one. They wanted the power that the British had. Although they disliked the British way of Governing, their taxes and so forth, the Americans used much of the British ways of governing for themselves after the revolution. The most significant thing that changed after all was said and done in the revolution was people’s ability to vote. Much of the laws that we have today are laws that the British passed for us, the only difference being the government.