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What Really Caused the American Revolution?
What Really Caused the Revolution? Historians have argued about the many possibilities of why the American Revolution occurred. The reason for this is that the main cause of the revolution caused other supposedly “causes of the revolution”. The most basic simplest cause of the American Revolution is merely the fact that distance weakens authority; greater distance weakens authority even more greatly. Separation from the “child” nation (Thirteen Colonies) from its mother country (Great Britain) was inevitable. During the Seven Years’ War Britain thought the colonies were acting obnoxious and were the cause of the Seven Years’ War because the war started in America. Once it tried to regain control Britain was shocked when it saw that they were losing grasp of their thirteen colonies and saw their child was growing up into an adolescent. America wasn’t really looking for independence they sought only to claim the “rights of Englishmen”, though collisions between two different views of empire came between the American colonies and their mother country; also Americans were steadily moving toward a more self-gover nment. But there were also those other supposedly “causes of the revolution” that occurred. A way Britain tried to gain back control and the £140 million they were in debt for defending the American colonies, imposed Navigation laws which meant that all commerce flowing to and from the colonies would be transported only in British vessels. Then there were the taxes, one which made the American colonists irate was the Stamp Act of 1765. Prime Minister George Grenville was resentful of the colonies and ordered British navy to begin enforcing the navigation laws more strictly and secured from Parliament the Sugar Act of 1764, raised duty on foreign sugar imported from the West Indies, and was the first law ever passed for raising tax revenue in the colonies for the crown. Then there was the Quartering Act of 1765, required certain colonies to provide food and quarters for British troops. The Stamp Act of 1765 mandated the use of stamped paper or the affixing of stamps, certifying payment of tax. These stamps were required on bills of sale for about fifty trade items, certain types of commercial and legal documents, including playing cards, pamphlets, newspapers, diplomas, bills of lading, and marriage licenses. Even though the Americans weren’t being taxed as much as British people they were still outraged, they felt Grenville’s noxious legislation jeopardized the basic rights of the colonists as Englishmen. Angry American throats raised the cry “No taxation without representation!” They conceded the right of Parliament to legislate about matters that affected the entire empire; they steadfastly denied the right of Parliament to impose taxes on Americans. Only their own elected colonial legislatures could legally tax them. Grenville dismissed these American protests and asserted in any case the Americans were represented in Parliament. He claimed that every member of Parliament represented all British subjects, even those Americans in Boston or Charleston who had never voted for a member of parliament this theory is known as “virtual representation”. The Americans didn’t like this idea at all, and truthfully didn’t really want any direct representation in Parliament. Colonists clung to no taxation without representation. Benjamin Franklin, then in London as a prominent colonial agent testified before a committee of the House of Commons. He answered varies questions very brilliantly. He pointed out that if a military force would be sent to America nobody would be found in arms “what are they then to do? They cannot force a man to take stamps who chooses to do without them. They will not find a rebellion: they may indeed make one.” Colonial outcries against the detested stamp tax took various forms. The Stamp Act Congress of 1765 it was one more halting but significant step toward intercolonial unity. More effective was the Nonimportation Agreements against British goods. Some violence accompanied colonial protests, two groups called Sons of Liberty and Daughters of Liberty took the law into their own hands. They enforced the nonimportation agreements against violators, often they would tar and feather them, and ransacked houses of unpopular officials. About one-half of British shipping was devoted to American trade, merchants, manufacturers, and shippers suffered because of the nonimportation agreements. After a tempestuous debate Parliament repealed the Stamp Act.
“Champagne Charley” Townshend could deliver the most dazzling speeches even while drunk. He persuaded Parliament to pass the Townshend Acts in 1767; most important of these new regulations was a light import duty on glass, white lead, paper, paint, and tea. He made them an indirect customs duty payable at American ports. But Americans still weren’t fond of this and found it no different than the Stamp Act. They still were taxes and without representation. Americans found the tax on tea more irksome because an estimated 1 million people drank the beverage twice a day. The colonists once again tried the nonimportation agreements but proved to be less effective than the ones against the Stamp Act. They still took the tax less seriously mainly because it was light and indirect. Moreover they found they could smuggle the tea at a cheap price.
British officials sent two regiments of troops to Boston. Many colonists felt resentment against the presence of the soldiers and taunted them unmercifully. On March 5, 1770 a crowd of about 60 townspeople attacked a crew of about ten redcoats. And without any rationalization and without orders opened fire and killed or wounded eleven “innocent” citizens. Though the redcoats only acted this way because they were under extreme provocation, one of them was hit by a club and another was knocked down.
Rebellion was still inevitable by 1773, nonimportation was weakening, and the colonists were reluctantly paying the tea tax because the legal tea was cheaper than the smuggled tea it was even cheaper than the tea in England. The British East India Company was going bankrupt because of the 17 million pounds of unsold tea. The London government would collapse and lose tax revenue very heavily. So the ministry helped the company by giving it complete control of the American tea business. Americans were outraged and felt as if they were being tricked. In Philadelphia and New York mass demonstrations forced tea-bearing ships to return to England with their cargo holds still full. The most memorable of this doing was in Boston, Massachusetts. Thomas Hutchinson, governor of Massachusetts had already felt the fury of the angry mob, when Stamp Act protestors had destroyed his home. Though he still ordered the tea ships not to leave Boston until all its cargo was unloaded. Infuriated Bostonians disguised as Indians boarded on the ships and smashed open 342 chests of tea and dumped it into the Boston harbor.
Parliament responded to the Boston Tea Party immediately. In 1774 series of acts were made. Americans called them “the massacre of American Liberty” by others as the “Intolerable Acts”, many of the chartered rights of colonial Massachusetts were swept away. And with the “Intolerable Acts” came the Quebec Act, both passed at the same time. American saw this act especially noxious, it seemed to set a dangerous precedent in America against jury trials and popular assemblies. Land speculators became alarmed; anti-Catholics became distressed to see a huge trans-Allegheny area snatched from them.
All these supposedly “causes of the revolution” abraded the Americans, they were fed up so they came to a summoning of a Continental Congress in 1774. The congress came up with several dignified papers including the Declaration of Rights, and appeals to other British American colonies to the king and British people. Though they weren’t looking for independence and sought merely to repeal the offensive legislation and return to the happy days before parliamentary taxation, when they were left alone. If these colonial grievances weren’t taken to consideration the Congress was to meet again. And evidently they weren’t, slowly war would creep up behind them. The British and the Americans now teetered on the brink of all-out warfare. Thus the American Revolution.