The American Revolution is considered as one of the greatest movements in human history for freedom and equality. The colonists found every cause as a pretext for quarrel with the British because they had reached a stage when British interference was viewed as a hindrance rather than help. Although American colonies were basically the by-product of British support but with the passage of time the Americans realized that British policies were leading to suppression and exploitation of American Colonies.
CAUSES OF AMERICAN REVOLUTION | American Revolution
- Emergency of 13 Colonies
- The pilgrim fathers (Pilgrim Fathers’ is a name commonly applied to early settlers in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States. They had fled the volatile political environment in England for the relative calm and tolerance of 16th-17th century Holland in the Netherlands. Concerned with losing their cultural identity, the group later arranged with English investors to establish a new colony in North America. The colony, established in 1620, became the second successful English settlement, after the founding of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, and later the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in what was to become the United States of America. The Pilgrims’ story of seeking religious freedom has become a central theme of the history and culture of the United States) came to America and established colonies. They sought civil and religious autonomy from their mother-country and made the Mayflower compact (The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of Plymouth, signed aboard the ship Mayflower, written by the Separatists fleeing from religious persecution by the King James of Great Britain) as the basis of their new government.
- The southern colonies such as Virginia and Georgia developed due to the rapid spread of Tobacco and Cotton cultivation. The Quakers and Catholics developed Pennsylvania and Maryland colonies. The Dutch set up New Amsterdam as a trading post.
- When the English defeated the Dutch in 1664 and captured New Amsterdam they named it as New York. Part of the colony of New York became Jersey. The colony of Delaware was founded by a Swedish company and ultimately fell into the hands of the English. The Puritans from Boston founded the colony of New Hampshire. With the exception of Connecticut and Rhode Island, all other colonies had governor’s who were appointed by the king or proprietors. Each governor was assisted by a council. Each colony had an assembly consisting of elected representatives wrtio voted for local taxes and local laws. American Revolution
- AJI the colonies required protection as the French across the northern border, and Red Indians from the west, constantly posed a threat. The British governors could afford to give protection to the native of Thirteen Colonies.
- British Mercantilist Policy
- A series of mercantilist regulations were passed by the British Parliament which restricted the scope of colonial exports and imports. E.g. the colonists were made to sell their goods only to the English merchants and to buy foreign goods after paying duty at an English port.
- The colonists were not to compete with the English manufacturers. Opposition to these mercantilist regulations were widespread and the colonists resorted to smuggling of goods. Taxes were also evaded by the colonists. Some of the merchants in the colonies maintained their trade contacts with the enemies of Britain.
- The situation took a turn for the worse in the period immediately after the culmination of the Seven years war between England and France. Britain tried to recover its war losses from its American colonies. Conflicting views arose in the aftermath, on the one hand Britain asserted its right to tax the colonies more as it had protected the colonies during the seven year’s war whereas on the other hand the colonists replied that the war on the continent had been fought and financed by them and therefore, the mother country should not impose taxes. Colonists also said that colonial assemblies alone had the right to tax them.
- Enforcement of Mercantilist Regulations
- King George III began to assert his position and forced the cabinet to secure parliamentary sanction for imposing new taxes on the colonists. For proper enforcement of trade regulations the British Government sent troops to America. British agents were authorized to check smuggling and search private residences on suspicion.
- Along with this Britain also ordered the settlers not to move beyond the traditional border on the western side lest it provoked the Red Indians. But the turning point became the Sugar Act, 1764 which imposed import duty on molasses imported by the colonists.
- The Stamp Act, 1765, introduced a new measure by which the colonists were required to register various legal documents, wills and licenses by affixing revenue stamps. This led to reaction through Sons of liberty (The group was formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to take to the streets against the abuses of the British government.) and Daughters of liberty (They helped the Sons of liberty make their clothes as well as homemade products when they boycotted British products) when heaps of stamps and the effigies of stamp collectors were burnt and there were riots in New England and New York. The Stamps Act Congress which was composed of the representatives of nine colonies met at New York and passed a resolution that British Parliament had no right to tax the colonies without their consent.
- British government repealed the stamp duty later on but it insisted on its right to tax the colonies. This led to the Townshend Act 1767. Townshend proposed duties on colonial imports of glass, lead, paint, paper and tea. At the same time he ordered the suspension of the New York Assembly for not enforcing the Mutiny Act of 1765. (Although common law governed civilians it did not control military forces as such. The army was seen as the crown’s personal force. Therefore its governance was the crown’s royal prerogative. The crown governed the military by publishing articles of war. These articles were orders to the army for a specific war or campaign. Although harsh, the articles were clear in their expectations for military personnel. However, these articles were used arbitrarily against civilians at various This encroached on the power and jurisdiction of the English courts of common law. Parliament responded by passing the first Mutiny Act of 1689. This act made desertion, mutiny, and sedition of officers and soldiers crimes which were triable by court-martial and punishable by death. Subsequent Mutiny Acts were a series of annual Acts passed by the Parliament of England, the Parliament of Great Britain, and the Parliament of the United Kingdom for governing the British Army.
- The British Parliament gave consent to both the acts. Besides the storm of protest the merchants of Boston, Philadelphia and New York resorted to the boycott of British goods. This finally led to Boston Massacre of 1770 (The Boston Massacre, was an incident in 1770, in which British Army soldiers killed five civilian men and injured six others. The troops had been stationed in Boston, since 1768 in order to protect and support crown-appointed colonial officials attempting to enforce unpopular Parliamentary legislation. Amid ongoing tense relations between the population and the soldiers, the soldiers fired into the crowd, without orders, instantly killing three people and wounding others. Two more people died later of wounds sustained in the incident). American Revolution
Boston Tea Party of 1773 | American Revolution
- In the ongoing situation of tension and turmoil, Lord North repealed all Townshend duties except on Tea. It was done for two reasons: –
- British Government wanted to retain its rights to tax the colonies.
- Lord North tried to help East India Company to dispose of its large stock of tea by selling them to the colonists. American Revolution
- Therefore, in Boston, Samuel Adams and his followers entered into Boston port and threw away the tea chests in the Atlantic turning the incident to be called as Boston Tea Party of 1773.
The First Continental Congress (1774) | American Revolution
- British retaliation roused the anger of the colonists. Accordingly, the First Continental Congress met in September 1774 in Philadelphia. It included delegates from all the colonies except Georgia. Some of them like George Washington, John and Samuel Adams, and John Jay who were to play an important role in the early history of the United States of America were taking part in the Congress. They sent a petition to King George III to redress their grievances, formed a “Continental Association,” with the purpose of stopping all trade with Britain, and agreed to meet again during the next spring.
- Skirmishes at Lexington and Concord lead to war The First Continental Congress had approved steps to be taken to prepare for war. The people of Massachusetts gathered arms and ammunition and trained “minutemen” to fight. British troops in Lexington and Concord led to conflict ensuing in death of minutemen. Tales of British atrocities spread and soon the war broke out. American Revolution
Declaration of Independence (4th July 1776)
- A few weeks after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence which was issued on 4th July, 1776. It included, among other things, a list of omissions and commissions of the government of King George III, and “certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In the end the solemn declaration mentioned, “we therefore….solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States….”
The War | American Revolution
- The Second Continental Congress appointed General Washington as the commander of the Continental Army and began to raise necessary resources for the continuation of war. In the meanwhile, General Burgoyne was defeated at the battle of Saratoga and finally surrendered in October 1777. The defeat of the British at Saratoga proved to be turning point in favour of the Colonists. The French joined the war on the American side in 1778 to help American colonists in winning the war and also to avenge their own defeat in the Seven Years war. The French navy also played a decisive role during the crucial stage of the war. Soon Spain and the Netherlands were also at war with Britain as allies of France. The League of Armed Neutrals (Russia, Denmark and Sweden) assumed hostile attitude towards Britain. Thus Britain was alone in her fight against the rebellious colonists who were thousands of miles away from her.
- In 1781, the British army in the South led by General Cornwallis was surrounded by the American and the French armies. Unable to extricate himself from this predicament, Cornwallis with his soldiers surrendered to Washington at Yorktown. It was the most important event in the course of the war. American Revolution
- Firstly, Britain lost the war because her leaders were unable to direct it efficiently. Secondly, she had lost her supremacy on the seas due to French intervention. Thirdly, she was fighting on the foreign soil which was thousands of miles away. Fourthly, her commanders committed many blunders.
- But in the end, one must also give due credit to General Washington for having ably led the colonial forces to victory.
Evaluation | American Revolution
- Firstly, in 1783, the British signed the treaty of Paris (1783) by which she recognized the independence of the 13 colonies.
- Secondly, the American War of Independence was an event of great importance in the history of mankind. The Americans chose a Republic in the place of monarchy and built a truly democratic state. Ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence were put into practice.
- Thirdly, the American Revolution had its ifnpact on the French who groaned under tyrannical monarchy. When the French volunteers led by General La Fayette returned to France from the colonies they sowed the seeds of revolution on their native soil, thus, paving the way for the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.
- In the end, the mercantilist theory, that colonies exist for the benefit of the mother-country, came to be very much criticized. American Revolution