The American Revolution was caused by the French and Indian War, the Proclamation Line of 1763, Navigation acts, lack of colonial representation, and violent colonial resistance. Even though the French and Indian War succeeded in giving Great Britain an enormous amount of territory in North America, it was also immensely expensive. In an attempt to cover these expenses, Britain’s parliament decided to impose taxes on the colonists, also known as the Navigation Acts.
These acts led to colonial resentment over the growing imperial rule in the colonies. Having no control over these taxes, colonists realized their lack of representation in the English Parliament and wrote to King George III, hoping to gain some say in what was imposed upon them. In response, the colonists gained more taxes and their irritation with the parliament grew. Great Britain, not wanting to provocate another war with the Indians, attempted to limit Westward expansion for colonists by passing the Proclamation Line of 1763, which stated that colonists could not settle West of the Appalachian Mountains. Tired of the repressive laws and taxes bestowed upon them, colonists began to revolt and use violence as their way of rejecting British rule. These clashes over colonial freedom led to an extensive war for independence.
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When the war ended in 1763, Britain gained a vast amount of land for its empire after signing the Treaty of Paris. Although the war had ended, fighting with indians continued. After signing the treaty, ten thousand British troops arrived on the new frontier to defend and assuage it. The soldiers lodged themselves in the homes of many settlers, causing colonial discontent with the disruption of their homes. Along with building a vast empire and strong Navy, Britain was so high in expenses that England’s national debt doubled in amount. England decided to push the debt on the colonies in the form of many taxes and laws. Resentment among colonists grew as their expansion was limited and they were heavily taxed.
After an expensive war, King George III passed the Proclamation Line of 1763 to prevent further fighting with the indians. This frontier policy forbade colonial settlement West of the Appalachian Mountains, mainly in the Ohio Valley. Many colonists disliked this policy and resented the British monarchy for it. The colonists were celebrating the opening of the frontier won after the war, and grew upset that their expansion became limited. Many colonists believed that Britain was trying to keep a tight control over the colonies by enacting this policy.
Since Britain was in a massive debt and in need of cash, the expenses were pushed onto America. This led to a series of taxes imposed upon the colonists, some of which were meant to prevent smuggling. The Sugar Act of 1764 taxed many commonly used imports such as sugar, coffee, and wine. Tax collection was stringently enforced and led colonists to protest and cry no taxation without representation, because they had no say in the British policy. For the colonists, property was seen as a freedom instead of just a possession. If one had property, they could provide for themselves without relying on the government. When the security of that property was threatened due to taxes, so was the liberty that came with it.
Many colonists believed that their freedom was being dealt with in this way, and protested. For example, in Massachusetts, a protest was drawn up that stated that taxes ought not to be laid without representatives of the colonists affected by them. In March, 1765, the Stamp tax became a law, forcing any formally written or printed documents to be put on singular stamped paper and distributed in America by resident agents who were on payment of the taxes. The colonists would have to pay stamp tariffs on the stages of lawsuits, almanacs, newspapers, bills and bonds, diplomas, deeds, advertisements, and even dice and cards. Regardless of size, each fee seemed to be a strike on the security of property to the colonists because they were levied without assent. With the passage of the Stamp Act, merchants of the colonies rebelled by agreeing to cease imports on all British goods unless Parliament were to repeal it. Most colonies also witnessed a pause in business due to the desire to nullify the act, and used nothing that required the use of stamps.
Most Englishmen were ineligible to vote on the acts of Parliament, either because they did not own enough property, or they lived in towns that were not allowed to send members. The Sugar Act and a newly proposed stamp tax brought forth colonial protests and objections. In an attempt to justify these new acts, Thomas Whatley, a member of the Parliament, assured the colonists that they weren’t unrepresented, but they instead enjoyed a virtual representation, without voting for anyone. According to Whatley, each member of Parliament represented the entire empire and not just the few electors who chose them. The colonists roundly rejected this idea of virtual representation and wanted an actual representation in Parliament. In October, 1765, nine colonies sent representatives to New York to attend the Stamp Act Congress, where they drew up a set of regulations denying the authority of taxation by Parliament. This declaration of rights and grievances was framed and then sent to King George III, but despite the opposition, the Stamp Act was still enacted. The colonists were angered by the lack of representation that they had in the British government, and thus their desire for freedom was fueled.
As the colonists tried to flout the British government, they formed rebellious associations, a popular one called the Sons of Liberty in Boston, led by politician Samuel Adams. The purpose of these groups was to declare the colonial intention to resist the Stamp act to the last extremity. The colonists in these associations found themselves willing to risk their lives in rebellion to prevent the security of their property from being taken by the Parliament, in which they had no representation. In response to the Stamp Act, the Sons of Liberty hung an effigy of Andrew Oliver, who was paid to distribute stamps in Massachusetts, along with a large boot with a devil climbing out of it, to symbolize Oliver’s evil connection to the Stamp Act. After dusk, many furious colonists of Boston burned Oliver’s property, stoned his house, and beheaded the effigy. Similar riots began to break out and forced the resignations of various crown-appointed officials.
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