AP US History
The American Revolution was sparked by a myriad of causes. These causes in themselves could not have sparked such a massive rebellion in the nation, but as the problems of the colonies cumulated, their collective impact spilt over and the American Revolution ensued. Many say that this war could have been easily avoided and was poorly handled by both sides, British and American; but as one will see, the frame of thought of the colonists was poorly suited to accept British measures which sought to "overstep" it's power in the Americas. Because of this mindset, colonists developed a deep resentment of British rule and policies; and as events culminated, there was no means to avoid revolution and no way to turn back.
There are four major reasons that the rebellion of the colonists accumulated into a full scale revolution. The most indistinct of these four reasons is the old societal legacies of the colonies, namely: social, political, religious, and economic values. These deeply rooted values were ingrained and inherited from the generations of colonists, and once the British began upsetting those values, resentment set in and began to undermine the British authority. For example, many of those who came to America were of British decent; they loved being English and fancied that, as colonists, they were taking part in the building of a bigger and stronger British Empire. But to those in England, the Americans were no better than barbarians. The English did not view Americans as equal, but as a debased populace that was in no way English. After this became apparent, those living in America began to develop a strong antipathy toward the British.
The British military also played a role in starting the revolution. As Britain began to call more and more troops into the colonies, especially after the seven years war, many of the citizens began to doubt their purpose. The British justified stationing troops by saying that it was to cut expenditures. Yes it did cut expenditures, but to the dismay of the colonists, the burden of housing soldiers, due to the Quartering act of 1765, was laid upon them. This caused great dissent, for as the population of Boston was only approximately 18,000, the troops made up more than one fifth of the population. But cutting spending wasn't the only objective in bring in troops. Parliament also wanted to use the troops in order to enforce the British legislature's rules and ordinances. The troops served as intimidation to keep the colonists in check. But as Americans became more rebellious, England funneled in more troops. In 1774, the British responded to the Boston tea party by establishing the Coercive Acts. These acts in addition to closing Boston harbor and subjecting everyone to admiralty courts also shipped in 3000 soldiers and put the state of Massachusetts under martial law. Thus, in towns, there developed great tension between the people and the British troops, an uneasiness that would reside and alienate the colonists from the empire.
More importantly, the colonist resented Parliament's taxes with a passion. In the beginning, the settlers of the colonies respected Parliaments right to tax because they were founded on the ideals of mercantilism and were modest as well as reasonable. But as America began to take shape, Parliament passes more and more acts taxing the colonist based solely for profit raising. The main problem in this was that the colonists considered themselves unrepresented in Parliament. They did not accept the idea of "virtual representation" and therefore wanted individuals from the colonies to represent the colonists in Parliament. When this did not happen, the colonials began to resist new taxes targeted for raising money. Such taxes such as the Sugar Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765 became a focal point for all grievances against the empire, for as Samuel Adams said, "No taxation without representation".
All the previously mentioned causes were great factors which incited the revolution, but the greatest motivator of the war was the restriction of civil liberties instituted by the British. This factor in effect encompasses almost all of those factors stated above, for those, in one way or another, impacted the lifestyle and rights of all the colonists. Militarily, the soldiers housed by the Quartering Act impacted the colonists' right of privacy; economically, mercantilism restricted their freedom to trade to England, forcing the colonists to smuggle; politically, the Coercive acts suspended all colonial governments and gave power to royal officials. Also, the coercive acts gave all powers of trial to the admiralty courts. This act took away completely the right of trial by jury that was almost a birthright to all citizens. Through these acts, the British confiscated certain rights to which the colonists considered inalienable; this then alienated the British Empire and sparked the revolution.
As one can see, the American Revolution was dependent
on many specific factors working in unison. As the British fashioned more and more Acts which degraded the colonies, they escalated the resentment felt by the colonists. As both opposing sides fought back and forth, the sparks of the revolution caused the populace to view the British as dictators who would take away all their rights and make their free colonies into a tyranny. This paranoia was prevalent throughout colonial society and combined with many other factors, began the American Revolution.