In the late 1750 s and early 1760 s two things were happening; The first, a war on two fronts, The Seven Years War in Europe and the French and Indian War in North America and the second, American people s sentiment towards their mother country Great Britain was changing. In this essay I plan to show that a principle reason for the War of Independence was the British policy of taxation on the Colonies. The war [The Seven Year & French and Indian War] changed the relationship between Britain and its colonies. Prior to the war the British had practiced a policy of salutary neglect on the colonies. There were laws that placed taxes on certain items but they were not enforced, such as the molasses act, which was imposed in 1733. Salutary neglect could be practiced. Then, the colonies sparked a booming trade ring with Britain, its West Indies and the rest of Europe. This made the British very wealthy and powerful and the people in power did not want to change this in anyway. During the period of salutary neglect the colonists developed a nearly independent political and economic system, while still loyal to the king. The French and Indian War began in the colonies began in 1754 and lasted until 1763. The war in Europe began in 1756 and lasted until 1763. Britain had defeated the French and its ally Spain and they had won over much territory in North America. They won all of France s holdings in Canada, all the land east of the Mississippi River and they one over Florida from Spain. They also were left with one more thing, a large war debt. This is what I think is the main reason for the taxes that lead to Declaration of Independence. After the war the British government began to “tug on the reigns” so to speak to get the colonies more firmly under its control. After an uprising by Ottawa chief Pontiac, the British Parliament then issued The Proclamation of 1763. This restricted settlement in the west of the Appalachian Mountains to prevent new wars with the Native Americans who were their now. This was followed by the Currency Act of 1764, which prohibited the colonies from using paper money to pay their debts. As another tax designed to generate revenue the Parliament passed the Sugar Act of 1764. This was similar to the Molasses Act. It lowered the duties imposed by the Molasses Act but instead of salutary neglect, this would be strictly enforced. This law placed tighter administrative controls on coastal shipping. More importantly, it provided that violators of the Sugar Act would be prosecuted in the vice-admiralty courts, in which cases were heard by British-appointed judges with no local juries. Another innovation was the Quartering Act of 1765, which made provision for the colonial assemblies to provide housing and supplies for British troops. Then, the British government headed by George Grenville acted to raise revenue buy levying, for the first time, a direct tax on the colonists themselves. In 1765 the George Grenville help pass the Stamp Act. This required that colonists buy and place revenue stamps on all official legal documents, deeds, newspapers, pamphlets, dice and playing cards. “That his Majesty’s subjects in these colonies, owe the same allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain that is owing from his subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that noble body, the Parliament of Great Britain.” This statement can be used as a summation of the entire document that the Parliament used as a reason, or excuse depending on who you talk to, to levy it on the colonists. The statement depicts the colonists has having to be submissive and servile in the view of Great Britain, this policy angered the colonists very much, and was another component of the transition of the colonists’ rights and liberties.This statement also leads me to my next point. The British Parliament used the term “Virtual Representation” when the colonist complained that since they were not directly represented in the Parliament that they should not have to have the heavy burden of British taxes. Virtual Representation was the idea that since the American colonies were a part of the Commonwealth they were “virtually” represented. Also they said that even some towns in England did not have representative in the House of Commons and they where not crying foul and were not ready revolt. This idea was shot down by the colonists as ludicrous. They felt that they where being treated as second class citizens. They knew that there where some towns without representation but they also knew that they were English towns and the House of Commons was comprised solely of their fellow Englishmen. Pressure from the British merchants, who feared the non-importation movement, persuaded a new British ministry, led by Prime Minister Charles Wentworth, to repeal the Stamp Act in 1766. However, Parliament enacted a Declaratory Act that restated its traditional claim to legislate for and to tax the colonists. As Chief Justice William Murray, later 1st Earl of Mansfield, stated: “The British legislature … has the authority to bind every part and every subject without the least distinction, whether such subjects have the right to vote or not.” When the Declaratory Act was passed in March of 1766, many colonies were attempting to claim that they were “seceding” from England. “Whereas several of the houses of representatives in his Majesty’s colonies and plantations in America, have of late, against law, or to the general assemblies of the same, the sole and exclusive right of imposing duties and taxes upon his Majesty’s subjects in the said colonies… be it declared … that the said colonies and plantations in America, have been, are, and of right ought to be, subordinate unto, and dependent upon the imperial Crown and Parliament of Great Britain. The Parliament of course denounced the attempt at independence and still dogmatically passed the following law to show that the colonists were still British subjects. Again, the colonists were infuriated and later will resist the British imperialism on the colonies.
Lord Townshend believed that the colonists were objecting to internal taxes such as the Stamp Act, but not to external taxes on trade. Subsequently he assumed that the colonists would accept duties on colonial imports of lead, glass, paint, paper and tea. This act also specified that the revenue would not only support the British troops on American soil but also provide for the salaries of royal officials who would collect these taxes. This sparked reaction from many colonists. Among the most vocal of these colonists was John Dickinson. He wrote Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania in 1767. “All before, are calculated to regulate trade, and preserve promote a mutually beneficial intercourse between the several constituent parts of the empire.” “Yet those duties were always imposed with design to restrain the commerce of one part”.As Patriots were starting to “draw the line in the sand” Lord North helped separate the sides even more. He wanted to assist the British East India Company, which had taken on military expenses in expanding British trade in India. To help them, he helped pass the Tea Act in 1763, which eliminated the customs duty the company’s teas and permitted its direct export to America. Basically this meant that by not having to go to England to pay the tax before coming to America the company’s tea would be cheaper, which would make the colonists want to buy the tea. The Americans did not like this because it was not profitable for them and they would not be able to trade for their tea. North knew that the Tea Act would be unpopular but not enough for what was to happen next. On December 16, 1773 radical Patriots led by Samuel Adams prevented a British East India Company ship from being unloaded. When Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to let the ship sail back to England until the duty had been paid the Patriots boarded the ship, took the tea and then dumped it overboard into the sea, hence the term Boston Tea Party.Up until now war was almost unthinkable, but when the Tea Party happened this outraged Parliament, they demanded compensation for the tea that was spilled. When the Boston town meeting met next they were now under the influence of Sam Adams, Joseph Warren and the rest of the Caucus Club. They rejected the demand the North Ministry replied with a series of strict acts that came to be known as the Intolerable Acts, in March of 1774. The Intolerable Acts included The Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston to trade. The Massachusetts Government Act revoked the colony’s charter and forbade town meetings. The new Quartering Act required for each colonist to house a British soldier. And finally the Impartial Administration of Justice Act removed British officials from the jurisdiction of Massachusetts’s courts. These were passed to try to divide the colonies. They tried to separate the more radical New England colonies from the Southern and Mid-Atlantic colonies. This almost worked but in the end, it brought the colonies to a united front against a common enemy. This lead to the meeting of the First Continental Congress, held in Philadelphia in September and October 1774. In a pamphlet entitled A Summary View of the Rights of British Americans Thomas Jefferson denounced all parliamentary legislation acts “off arbitrary power … over these states.” The congress declared the British acts “unconstitutional, dangerous and destructive to the freedom of America” I like the way Thomas Paine put it in his pamphlet Common Sense (January 1776) the best “Ye that oppose independence now, ye know not what ye do, ye are opening a door to eternal tyranny…” “That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying it’s foundations on such principles and organizing it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. What the declaration is saying here is that when a society has such a government that forces unfair laws and permits little or no rights that it should be destroyed, thus a separation from England. A new government would eventually arise from the ruble after the war and it would eventually become the biggest, most powerful country in the world. When you look back, you can’t stop and think to yourself, not to bad for a few guys who were looked on as a bunch of radicals who were guilty of treason and would have been hung if the war was lost.
1. American independence and Britain’s counter-revolution.Gould, Eliga H. Past & Present 02/97: n154. p107(35)2. The Radicalism of the American Revolution. Wilentz, Sean. The New Republic 12/23/91 v205: n26-27. p32(8)3. American Revolution. Compton s Encyclopedia 19984. American Revolution. Columbia Concise 1998