The New World nurtured new ideas about the nature of society, citizens, and government Two ideas in particular had taken root in American colonists by the mid-18th century One was republicanism; models of the ancient Greek and Roman republics defined a just society as one in which all citizens willingly subordinated their private, selfish interests to the common good. By its very natures, republicanism was opposed to hierarchical and authoritarian institutions such as aristocracy and monarchy A second idea came from a group of British political observers known as “Radical Whigs”. They feared the threat to liberty posed by the subjective power of the monarchy and his ministers relative to elected representatives in Parliament They warned citizens to be on guard against corruption and to be eternally watchful against possible conspiracies and to uncover them of their hard-won liberties The circumstances of colonial life had done much to encourage alert attitudes. The Americans grew accustomed to running their won affairs; distance weakens authority and it came as a shock when Britain after 1763 tried to strengthen grip on the colonists Mercantilism and Colonial Grievances:
The British authorities embraced a theory, called mercantilism that justified their control over the colonies The Possessing colonies discussed distinct advantages, since the colonies could both supply raw materials to the mother country and provide a market for exports The London government looked on the American colonists more or less as tenants. They were expected to provide products such as tobacco, sugar, and ships’ masts. Parliament passed laws to regulate the mercantilist system; the first of these, the Navigation Law of 1650 was aimed at rival Dutch shippers trying to elbow their way into the American carrying trade Since the colonists bought more from Britain than they sold there, the difference had to make up in hard cash. To simplify everyday purchases, the colonists resorted to butter, nails, pitch, and feathers for purposes of exchange Parliament prohibited colonial legislatures from printing paper currency and from passing indulgent bankruptcy laws—Americans thought welfare was being sacrificed The Merits and Menace of Mercantilism:
Until 1763, various Navigation Laws imposed no intolerable burden London paid liberal bounties to colonial producers of ship parts, over the protests of British competitors; Virginia tobacco planters enjoyed a monopoly in the market The colonists also benefited from the protection of the world’s mightiest navy and a strong, seasoned army of redcoats, all without a penny of cost Mercantilism stifled economic initiative and enforced an irritating dependency on British agents and creditors. Revolution broke out because Britain failed to recognize an emerging nation when it saw The Stamp Tax Uproar:
Victory-flushed Britain emerged from the Seven Years’ War holding one of the biggest empires in the world and the biggest debt, some 140 million pounds, about half of which had been incurred defending the American colonies Prime Minister George Grenville first aroused the resentment of the colonists in 1763 by ordering the British navy to begin strictly enforcing the Navigations Laws He also secured from Parliament the so-called Sugar Act of 1764, the first law ever passed by that body for raising tax revenue in the colonies for the crown After bitter protests, the duties were lowered substantially, and the agitation died...