Question: To what extent had the colonists developed a sense of their identity and unity as Americans by the eve of the Revolution?
In the year 1750, it is doubtful that any colonist living on American soil had any thoughts about rebelling against the British empire at all.Those thoughts simply weren’t of much matter to them at the time. But miraculously, between the years of 1750 and 1776, a change had occurred. The change had at first been subtle, but grew more obvious by the year. Together, the colonists had developed an identity, consisting of the ideals of personal liberty, and the freedom to self govern. And had formed a sense of unity, through a collective hatred of British law and several hundred years of being separated from the mother country. Thus, the colonists had extensively and largely formed their sense of unity and identity by the eve of the American Revolution. .
Looking at the American Colonies in 1750, there was hardly any reason so many people could form a singular identity. They were made up of a number of different cultures, from Catholics to Protestants, and Englishmen to Africans(Document H). How could they possibly have rallied behind a goal, an ideal, a collective thought? It began with fact that they felt isolated from their homes, save for the Native Americans, but for all others they were 3,000 miles away from most everything they ever knew. This sort of gap, this hole that these colonists may have felt, could have easily been filled with the comfort of their neighbors. With that in mind, the fact that British had largely ignored or failed to keep in contact with the colonists for some 156 years prior to the 1750’s and the French and Indian War, as described indirectly by Edmund Burke (Document B). He spoke of how the vast expanses of land owned by the colonists and the divide of the Atlantic ocean made them fundamentally different than small towns within the English motherland. Therefore the best course of action, he described, was simply to let them carry on. This sort of hands off management allowed for a development of self-government. The people were able to secure themselves rights which became deeply cherished. So deeply, in fact, that the Continental Congress had stated that they would take up arms in defense of their liberties(Document E). And further displayed in publics works of the few years prior to the revolution, such as Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. It is due to these above reasons why the people of the English colonies developed such a strong identity.
When it came to unity, it wasn’t looking like such an achievable goal. Before the 1750’s and on, most of the colonies preferred to deal within themselves. The different religious beliefs, different ethnic backgrounds, or other variants had truly divided some people. This began to change in 1754 with the outbreak of the French and Indian war. In this situation where they faced destruction at the hands of the French and the Indian allies, they had but two options, join or die. This slogan originated from Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette political cartoon or image(Document A). At first this obviously seems to be a rallying cry to defend each other from the French, and it is, but it also can be seen as the start of unification as Americans, not just as British colonists(Document A). Following this, the cause for joining together was yet again to fight a common enemy, but not on the battlefield, at least not at first. The first metaphorical nail in the coffin was when the British government began to enforce the Navigation Acts, a policy restricting the trade of America so that it must pass through England. This policy made the colonists feel as if England was simply milking the colonies for their goods and profit, planting the seeds of discontent. Those seeds grew with every new policy that the British Government had enacted involving the taxing of the colonies. These acts or policies ranged from the Sugar Act, which...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document