What was the main cause of the American Revolution?
The American Revolution was caused by the unique nature of the American Colonists and their society in contrast to their relationship with the English Government and peoples. Life in America was not a life of leisure. American colonists had worked hard to cultivate their lands and develop their towns and cities. Rural life in the American colonies consisted not only of farmers but tradesmen also prospered. (Handlin. 24) By 1763, the American Colonies were spreading west. The expelling of the French and the Spaniards in 1763 opened lands of opportunity for the colonists. American colonists who settled in the new lands and the New World were a, "fresh breed of humans, self-reliant, rationalistic, disdainful of established ideas and authorities, vain, provincial, sometimes violent, often reckless". (Handlin 130) Tensions began to build in the Colonies right after the 7 years war, or the French and Indian War. At this time the American Colonies were prospering. The colonists in America had no oppressing chains to throw off. "In fact, the colonists knew they were freer, more equal, more prosperous and less burdened with cumbersome feudal and monarchical restraints than any other part of mankind in the 18th Century". (Wood 4) They had achieved an economic and political maturity that resented outside interference. (Jensen 34) They did not discover new ideas after 1763, but held up ideas of the rights of Englishmen which had begun back with the Magna Carta. The route to the American Revolution was based on this unique American character and the lack of understanding, which the British Government had for it. After the 7 years war, England was heavily in debt. This was the most that they'd ever been in debt in their history. Two years before the end of the war King George II died, and his grandson George III became king. King George III held the theory that to rule an empire you had to have a tight grip. "The colonies had always been the domain of the crown, administered by royally appointed officials. Parliament had seldom interferedexcept to pass the Acts of Trade and Navigation, laws relating to finance, and laws prohibiting or limiting certain colonial manufactures. The attempt by parliament to raise money in the colonies by acts of Parliament, coupled with other restrictive legislation and administrative decisions, forced Americans, for the first time, to attempt a serious definition of their concepts of the power of Parliament over the colonies" (Jensen p.5). Custom laws, which the crown had passed, had never really been enforced. Some of these acts included the 1704 act which required that the colonies limit their export of rice and molasses as well as tar, turpentine, hemp, and other naval stores to England alone, the 1721 act that prohibited importation of any tea, pepper, spices, drugs, silks, and cotton fabrics except through England and the East India Company, and in 1722 the White Pines Act which restricted New Englanders from felling trees beyond a certain circumference. In 1733 The Molasses Act put a tax on molasses which was a key ingredient in making rum (Cook p. 53). The non enforcement of these acts put no strain on the relationship between the colonists and England. The colonists traded with other nations and basically bribed their way out of the restrictions of the acts.
With the French and Indian War over, England was heavily in debt. They were over 133 million pounds in debt. King George III appointed ministers to develop plans to alleviate the debt. Ministers in England encouraged tighter enforcement of the custom laws and control of the colonies. "For political tacticians of considerable skill, these ministers made some surprising mistakes: making decisions in ignorance of American views was one of the worst; and refusing to compromise when these views were expressed was hardly less serious". (Middlekauff 49) The...
Cited: Canfield, Cass. Sam Adams 's Revolution (1765-1776). New York: Harper and
Cook, Don. The Long Fuse; How England Lost The American Colonies, 1760- 1785. New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995 .
Fleming, Thomas. Liberty! The American Revolution. New York: Penguin Group, 1997.
Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause; The American Revolution, 1763-1789.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.
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