The Birth of the Republic by Edmund Morgan gives many reasons for the American Revolution but the main thesis in the book is the search for principles. Morgan chooses to discuss the political issues instead of military aspects. The book discusses how the colonies were initially set up, through the war, and ending at the establishment of America as an independent country all surrounding our continuous search for principles. The British were in a lot of debt from the Seven Years War. Their solution was to tax the colonies and restrict their trade with things like the Sugar Act and Stamp act.
This displeased the Americans because it was very costly for them and they had no representation in parliament. The colonist wanted to have real representation and not virtual. The British ended up changing repealing the acts but only to replace it with the Declatory Act which gave them the right to enforce any legislation. This outraged the colonists but the British moved troops in the colonies. Then the British took over the whole industry which meant the colonists had to pay Britain to get tea which made them very mad. So they began one of the first rebellions in which they took tea from British tea and threw it in the Boston Harbor.
The hatred of the British government gave the colonies unity and helped them realize they need to detach from the British government. Common Sense by Thomas Paine helped everyone realize why the British government wouldn’t work for them. All of the conflicts lead to the Revolutionary war in 1775. The Americans were largely outnumbered and Britain had the strongest military in the entire world. But the Americans had military and diplomatic advantages over the British. First the Americans used guerrilla warfare which took advantage of cover and fired as much as they could.
On the other side the British all lined up at took turns firing. This made it easy for the Americans to defeat them. Also the Americans wanted to win more because the British were just being paid to fight but the Americans were fighting to protect their families and land. Also the Americans had help from the French who disliked Britain because if the Seven Years War. After the Americans had one the war they made the Articles of Confederation which was the rules for their new country which was replaced by the Constitution and they continued their search for principles.
The first theme explained is that the Americans were on a continuous search for principles. This was done at first with their rejection of British taxes which went against their principles. Then they continued this search by putting it into their own hands by revolting so they could control their own principles. Then finally the biggest search for principles was the writing of the Constitution. This not only set principles for the country but it allowed room for its revision so that we could continue on the search for principles. Morgan begins by explaining the relationship between the colonies and the English Parliament.
One main theme is no taxation without representation. This was the idea that the British should not be able to tax them without representation in the parliament. This was one of the main reasons for the revolution. “The Americans still felt most strongly the danger to their liberties from parliamentary taxation”(48). The British Parliament had a lot of debt from the Seven Years war so they needed to tax the Americans but all they wanted was representation. “[The Colonies] admitted Parliament’s right to use duties, incidental revnue might arise… but denied the right to levy duties for the purpose of revenue”. 36) Which means that the Americans didn’t want them to use their taxes for revenue. Another theme was that the colonist had the advantage in the war even though they were smaller and weaker. Because Britain was a super power at the time they were thought to be the strongest army in the world but the book says different. The Americans had a stronger army because they knew the land better and had better causes to fight. They also had help from France. “But money and supplies furnished secretly were different from outright military and naval assistance.
France had been ready to give one before she was asked” (83). France had given a lot of supplies and money to the Americans and also boats which helped them defeat Britain. The final theme is that the Constitution was the cure for all the bad principles from the British government. “When I saw this Constitution, I found that it was a cure for these disorders. ”(149) The constitution had things to check back too much power by one person because it has checks and balances. It also gave each state equal power and reprehensive power. And it also gave a limit to the power of the Federal government.
I think this was a good book in the sense that it showed the chronological events of the birth of our country. It gave a good synopsis of the events that lead up to the revolution and eventually American independence. This book was also persuasive because it gave enough facts to back up any claims he made. But it was also very biased in for some reasons. “They were a rapacious band of bureaucrats who brought to their task an irrepressible greed and a vindictive malice that could not fail to aggravate the antagonism not only against themselves but also against the Parliament that sent them.
Customs officers in America had always been a bad lot. (37) Here instead of simply listing facts he chooses on side and bashes the other. This was a good book to read for me. I like how he explained the different reasons for the revolution. I also liked it because he didn’t use a lot of military jargon when he was talking about the war but instead he just talked about politics. So I liked this book even if it was biased.