Our Keene et al (2013) text explains that new taxes for colonists first came about in 1763 after Prime Minister Grenville decided to investigate colonial revenue. Upon finding that little money was coming into the colonies from customsâ€™ duties (taxes on items crossing national borders) he decided to impose the Revenue Act, or â€œSugar Actâ€ of 1769, which taxed sugar and other goods. The British viewed these taxes as a small price to pay for running the colonies and for eliminating the French after the war, yet the colonists saw them as violations of their rights, particularly because they were being taxed without gaining representation in exchange (Keene et al, 2013). The Stamp Act and The Townsend Acts were other examples of Britainâ€™s attempts to collect money from the colonists to pay down their debt after the French and Indian War. In response to Parliamentâ€™s law to tax tea and enable the East India Companyâ€™s monopoly on tea trading with the colonies, some angry colonists responded with the notorious Boston Tea Party in 1773. As consequence for their act of destroying large quantities of tea, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts, which the colonists referred to as the Intolerable Acts. Among these acts were the provision that British troops could house in the homes of colonists. The â€œMurder Actâ€ was another provision of the Coercive Acts that enraged the colonists. It allowed British officials charged with capital offense to have trials outside of the colonies, causing the colonists to worry that these officials might literally get away with murder (Keene et al, 2013). Fearing that the colonists were preparing to resist British control, they attempted to seize their weapons and gun powder in April 1775, prompting Paul Revere to set out on his legendary ride to alert the people of Massachusetts that the British were coming (Keene et al, 2013). Another method of reaching the colonists and spreading information to garner support for the revolution was Thomas Paineâ€™s pamphlet entitled Common Sense. According to the History.com article linked in our Week 2 Lesson, Paineâ€™s pamphlet sold approximately 500, 000 copies. Without this means of disseminating information throughout the colonies, it would have been nearly impossible to inform the citizens of what was going on between Britain and the colonies, and to organize support in the movement to turn away from Britainâ€™s tyranny and pursue the Republic. Even so, many colonists still considered themselves loyalists and others remained neutral. The National Constitution Center (2018) reports that nearly 20% of colonists remained loyal to Britain as the Revolutionary War began, which makes the colonistsâ€™ success in gaining independence all the more impressive.
When the colonists first came to America in the early 1600s to escape â€œunreformed Catholic practiceâ€ and seek â€œProtestant purity,â€ they were still very much British citizens (Keene et al, 2013, p. 44). By the end of the 17th century, wealthy colonists were able to obtain imported luxury goods from Europe and wished to distinguish themselves from provincial colonists. Anglicization is the term our Keene et al (2013) text uses to describe this process of colonists embracing aspects of British culture, including the practice of tea drinking which gained significant popularity. Interestingly, tea became a symbol of British control over time, so it made sense that the Boston Tea Partyâ€™s act of dumping tea into the harbor symbolized their desire to be independent from Britain. While still under British rule, the colonists recognized that they were not being fairly or adequately represented by Parliament, considering they were an ocean away! In the colonies there was a greater proportion of land-owning men than there were in Britain, which meant that there were more politically active citizens, and having been raised in the colonies instead of Britain, they learned that political offices were earned through election unlike in Britain where aristocrats might inherit a seat in Parliament (Keene et al, 2013). Overtime, the colonists outgrew their reverence for Britain and monarchy, recognizing that they were being unfairly represented, taxed, and governed by laws that did not align with their values. The colonists wanted to protect their own rights and interests, distinct from Britain, and this led them to declare their independence and resort to war. They adopted new values as reflected in the Declaration of Independence, chiefly how â€œall men are created equal,â€ unlike in Britain where aristocrats were born greater than others and there was little hope of land ownership and power for those born in lower social classes. I imagine the geographic distance from Britain made it easier for the colonies to envision themselves as distinct from their homeland, and desiring legislation that matched their own needs and evolving culture. Overtime, the colonistsâ€™ discontent grew to the point that they were willing to sacrifice their lives for independence from Britain because the promise of liberty and equality were worth fighting for.
Chamberlain College of Nursing. (2019). HIST405N Week 2: Revolution: from rebellion to Jeffersonian democracy [Online lesson]. Downers Grove, IL: DeVry Education Group.
History.com “Thomas Paine Publishes Common Sense” Retrieved from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/thomas-paine-publishes-common-sense (Links to an external site.).
Keene, J., Cornell, S. & O’Donnell, E. (2013). Visions of America: A History of the United States (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
National Constitution Center (2018). Five myths about the start of the revolutionary war.Retrieved from https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/five-myths-abo…