The Road to Revolution, 1763-1775
I. The Deep Roots of Revolution
• In a broad sense, the American Revolution began when the first colonists set foot on America. • The war may have lasted for eight years, but a sense of independence had already begun to develop because London was over 3,000 miles away. o Sailing across the Atlantic in a ship often took 6 to 8 weeks. o Survivors felt physically and spiritually separated from Europe. o Colonists in America, without influence from superiors, felt that they were fundamentally different from England, and more independent. o Many began to think of themselves as Americans, and that they were on the cutting edge of the British empire. II. Mercantilism and Colonial Grievances
• Of the 13 original colonies, only Georgia was formally planted by the British government. The rest were started by companies, religious groups, land speculators, etc… • The British embraced a theory that justified their control of the colonies called mercantilism: o A country’s economic wealth could be measured by the amount of gold or silver in its treasury. o To amass gold and silver, a country had to export more than it imported (it had to obtain a favorable balance of trade). o Countries with colonies were at an advantage, because the colonies could supply the mother country with raw materials, wealth, supplies, a market for selling manufactured goods etc… o For America, that meant giving Britain all the ships, ships’ stores, sailors, and trade that they needed and wanted. o Also, they had to grow tobacco and sugar for England that Brits would otherwise have to buy from other countries. • England’s policy of mercantilism severely handcuffed American trade. o The Navigation Laws were the most infamous of the laws to enforce mercantilism. • The first of these was enacted in 1650, and was aimed at rival Dutch shippers who were elbowing their way into the American shipping. • The Navigation Laws restricted commerce from the colonies to England (and back) to only English ships, and none other. • Other laws stated that European goods consigned to America had to land first in England, where custom duties could be collected. • Also, some products, “enumerated goods,” could only be shipped to England. o Settlers were even restricted in what they could manufacture at home; they couldn’t make woolen cloth and beaver hats to export (though, they could make them for themselves). o Americans had no currency, but they were constantly buying things from Britain, so that gold and silver was constantly draining out of America, forcing some to even trade and barter. Eventually, the colonists were forced to print paper money, which depreciated. o Colonial laws could be voided by the Privy Council, though this privilege was used sparingly (469 times out of 8,563 laws). Still, colonists were infuriated by its use. III. The Merits and Menace of Mercantilism
• Merits of mercantilism:
o The Navigation Laws were hated, but until 1763, they were not really enforced much, resulting in widespread smuggling. This lack of enforcement is called “salutary neglect.” • In fact, John Hancock amassed a fortune through smuggling. o Tobacco planters, though they couldn’t ship it to anywhere except Britain, still had a monopoly within the British market. o Americans had unusual opportunities for self-government.
o Americans also had the mightiest army in the world in Britain, and didn’t have to pay for it. • After independence, the U.S. had to pay for a tiny army and navy. o Basically, the Americans had it made: even repressive laws weren’t enforced much, and the average American benefited much more than the average Englishman. • The mistakes that occurred didn’t occur out of malice, at least until the revolution. • Also, France and Spain embraced mercantilism, and enforced it heavily. • Menace of mercantilism:
o After Britain began to enforce mercantilism in 1763, the fuse for the American Revolution was lit. o...