Causes Of American Revolution

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Causes Of American Revolution Essay, Research Paper

Causes of the Revolutionary War

The haphazard and disorganized British rule of the American colonies in the

decade prior to the outbreak led to the Revolutionary War. The mismanagement

of the colonies, the taxation policies that violated the colonist right’s, the

distractions of foreign wars and politics in England and mercantilist policies that

benefited the English to a much greater degree then the colonists all show the

British incompetence in their rule over the colonies. These policies and

distractions were some of the causes of the Revolutionary War.

The interests of England within the colonies were self-centered. The English

were exploiting were trying to govern the colonies by using the mercantilist

system. Mercantilism is when the state directs all the economic activities within

it’s borders(Blum 31). England was not attempting to make any changes that

would help the colonists. They limited the colonies commerce to internal trade

only(Miller 9). The English were exploiting the colonies by demanding that the

colonies import more from England then they exported to the colonies. They

were importing raw materials from the colonies and making them into exportable

goods in England. They would then ship these goods to foreign markets all

around the world including the colonies(America Online ). Throughout the

seventeenth century the English saw America as a place to get materials they

didn’t have at home and a market to sell finished products at after the goods had

been manufactured. This was detrimental to the colonies because it prevented

them from manufacturing any of the raw materials they produced and made them

more dependent upon England.

In addition to the unrest caused by their mercantilist policies, domestic political

issues distracted them from the activities of the colonies. Throughout the sixteen

hundreds, Great Britain was more involved in solving the Constitutional issue of

who was to have more power in English government, the king or parliament.

When this complex issue was finally resolved in the Glorious Revolution of 1688,

England turned its attention back to the colonies and found that colonists had

developed their own identity as American.

There was no central office in England to control what was happening in the

colonies. The executive authority in England was divided among several

ministers and commissioners that did not act quickly or in unison. Also, the

Board of Trade, the branch of government that knew more about the colonies

than any other governing body in England, did not have the power to make

decisions or to enforce decrees. Due to the distractions from the complex

constitutional issues and ineffective governmental organization the colonists felt

further separated from England(Blum 51).

The political scene in England was laced with corruption. Officers of the

government sent to the colonies were often bribe-taking politicians that were not

smart enough to hold government positions in England. After Grenville and

Townshend the most incompetent was Lord North, who became Prime Minister

in 1770 after the death of Charles Townshend. “North was the kind of politician

George had been looking for —-a plodding, dogged, industrious man, neither a

fool nor a genius, much like the king himself. For the next twelve years, despite

the opposition of abler men, he remained at the head of the government(Blum

104).” Corruption and incompetence among governing politicians often made

their rule over the colonies ineffective.

In the years leading up to the final decade before the American Revolution, the

relationship between Great Britain and her colonies in North America continued

to deteriorate. Relations began to worsen with the great victory over the French

and Indians in the Seven Years War. Unwelcome British troops had remained in

the colonies. Debts from this war caused the Prime Minister at the time, Lord

Grenville, to enforce Mercantilism in an effort to get the colonists to pay their

share of the national debt that had doubled since 1754(Blum 95).

England passed many Acts that were ill conceived and had long term effects on

the relationship between England and the colonies. The most controversial of

these were direct taxes. The last time Parliament had tried a direct tax was as

recent as 1765, when Lord Grenville enacted the Stamp Act which forced the

colonists to pay for stamps on printed documents, the Stamp Act(Higginbotham

34). The Americans had felt the taxes of Lord Grenville were “a deliberate aim to

disinherit the colonists by denying them the rights of the English(Blum 96).” The

first of these acts were the Townshend Acts. The Townshend Acts were passed

in 1767 and placed new taxes on paper, paints, tea, lead and, glass. The new

taxes would be used to pay for British officials in the American service. These

acts infuriated the colonists because they believed that Parliament had the right

to put taxes on the trade of the colonies but could not place taxes directly on the

colonists to raise revenue(America Online).

The spokesperson of the colonies, John Dickinson, wrote in his “Letters of a

Pennsylvania Farmer,” on the issue of direct taxes. He distinguished between

taxes that were imposed to regulate trade and those that were intended solely to

raise revenue. If the tax was used to promote commerce it was justifiable, but if

the tax was used only to gain revenue it was not viewed as a legitimate

tax(America Online). The colonists believed that this new tax was not legitimate

and therefore there was strong opposition to it throughout the colonies.

By 1766 England backed off in their efforts to tax their colonies. Following a year

of opposition from the colonists England revoked the Stamp Act and the first

Quartering Act, but they still passed the Declaratory Act (History Place). In 1766

the Declaratory Act was passed. It was passed the same day that the Stamp Act

was repealed. The Declaratory Act gave the English government total power to

pass laws to govern the colonies. The British claimed that the colonies had

always been and should always be subject to the British crown(Blum 99).”

In 1773 the Tea Act was passed. The Tea Act not only put a three penny per

pound tax on tea but it also gave the British East India Company a near

monopoly because it allowed the company to sell directly to the colonial agents

avoiding any middlemen. In Boston the colonists held a town meeting to try to

get their Tea Agents to resign. The Tea Agents would not resign and a few

months later angered Bostonians dressed as Indians boarded three tea ships

and dumped it all into Boston Harbor(Blum 106).

In 1774 the intolerable Acts were passed. They were passed as a way to

reprimand the Bostonians for the Boston Tea Party. This didn’t go over well in

Boston because both the innocent and the guilty were being punished

equally(America Online). There were five acts within the Intolerable Acts. The

Massachusetts Government Act, a new Quartering Act, the Administration of

Justice Act the Quebec Act and the closing of the port of Boston. The

Massachusetts Government Act said that the Governor’s council had to be

appointed by the King and limited town meetings to one per year. The new

Quartering Act, “authorized the quartering of troops within a town (instead of in

the barracks provided by the colony) whenever their commanding officers

thought it desirable.” The Administration of Justice Act stated that, “any

government or customs officer indicted for murder could be tried in England,

beyond the control of local juries.” The Quebec Act was not intended to be used

as a punishment of the colonists, rather to extend the boundaries of the province

of Quebec to the Ohio River and give the Roman Catholics in that province

religious liberty and the double protection of French and English law. But the

Quebec Act actually angered the colonists because the colonists living in

Quebec were getting rights that the Americans felt were being taken away from

them(Blum 106).

During these years of ineffective rule, the causes of the Revolutionary War

emerged. Laws and policies enacted were self-serving, causing the colonists to

vigorously resist and try to avoid British authority. The colonists moves toward

religious and commercial self-determination were overlooked while England

dealt with the Seven years war and a domestic political crisis. All these factors

highlighted the differences and miscalculations of the British and were the

beginnings of the Revolutionary War.

Blum, John M. The National Experience. Fort Worth: Hartcourt Brace College

Publishers, 1993.

Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence. New York: The

Macmillan Company, 1971.

Miller, John C. Origins of the American Revolution. London: Oxford University

Press, 1943.

America Online, Research and Learn, History, American History, Revolutionary

War Forum, Rev War Archives, Part 1.

Prelude to Revolution 1763 to 1775.” The History Place.

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