History is written by the victors. Since America won the Revolutionary War, United States history explains and interprets the war and its causes from an ethnocentric view. Had the war been won by the British, the views would be quite different. Both countries often threaten the other; at other times they were conciliatory. The causes for the Revolutionary War are well documented from an American perspective. But what about the British perspective? This paper will assess and analyze the causes of the Revolutionary War from the British viewpoint.
Encouraged by successful wars in the Americans, Africa, and India, English leaders imagined a new sort of empire. Instead of the freely governed commercial organization of the past, they promoted centralized supervision by Parliament. Responding to resulting American displeasure, Lord Halifax declared, the colonists feel "entitled to a greater measure of Liberty than is enjoyed by the people of England."
In Britain, the French and Indian War created a vast debt. This impelled King George III and his administrators to further the English fiscal and military state of the colonies. Parliament swiftly substituted salutary neglect -- that had emphasized trade and local self-government -- with the imperial system -- that focused on taxation and regulation. English generals and colonial leaders differed on military policy. The existence of 10,000 English troops on American soil exposed strong cultural dissimilarities. The war also uncovered the ineptitude of the royal authority. Governors had broad political power, as well as control of the colonial militia; but they shared authority with the colonial assembles, which infuriated English representatives. By positioning an army within the colonies, the English indicated its willingness to suppress Indians, as well as disobedient colonist.
When George Grenville became prime minister in 1763, England was deep in debt and English citizens were providing more than four times as much in taxes as Americans. To augment revenue, Grenville introduced the Currency Act of 1764, that forbid the Americans from using paper money as legal tender. In addition, he implemented the Sugar Act of 1764, replacing the commonly disregarded Molasses Act of 1733. John Hancock and other colonists had made a fortune smuggling French molasses. Merchants indicted as a result of the act were to be tried by a vice-admiralty court, run by a English approved judge -- which enraged colonists. To be fair, merchants charged with infringements in the past were tried by local magistrates, where they were often released by neighborly juries. In addition, indicted smugglers in England were tried in vice-admiralty courts too; therefore there was no prejudice against colonist.
In response to each colony assembly's assertion that there shouldn't be taxation without representation -- a policy that came as Patriots' indignant surprise -- a British minister replied, "The rule that a British subject shall not be bound by laws or liable for taxes, but when he has consented to by his representatives must be confined to the inhabitants of Great Britain only."
An additional tax, the Stamp Act of 1765, ignited a great imperial calamity. The tax was to be used as part of the cost of maintaining English troops in the colonies. Knowing that several colonist would resist the tax on a constitutional basis, Grenville first presented the subject openly in the House of Commons. When there were no objections, he administered the tax. At the same time, Parliament introduced the Quartering Act, that obligated American assembles to supply food and lodging for British soldiers. At this point, popular American opposition took a violent turn. Terrified collectors gave up their tax stamps, and livid American's required English representatives to allow legal papers without the stamp. Complained a customs official, "What can a Governor do without the assistance of the Governed"
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Lancaster, Bruce, The American Heritage History of the American Revolution, New York: American Heritage Publishing, 1971.
Morison, Samuel Eliot, The Oxford History of the American People, New York: Oxford University Press, 1965.
Perritano, John, Causes of the American Revolution, New York: Crabtree Publishing, 2013.
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