Causes of the American Revolution

Chapter 2, q1:

What are the decisive events and arguments that produced the American Revolution?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (Charles Dickens).” This best describes the Americas in the 1700’s. The settler’s went through the best of times from obtaining religious freedom, to becoming prosperous merchants, and finally to establishing a more democratic government. However, it was the worst of times in the sense that the settlers in the America’s were taken advantage of my their mother country, England. The hatred of being under another’s control was one of the main reason’s that led to the American Revolution.

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In the 1600’s, England began to colonize America. King James I had urged those against the Church of England, such as the Puritans, to settle in America. Many settlers came to America to obtain religious freedom. Merchants settle din America to profit off the land since land was free or cheap at the time. Settling in America gave people hopes and dreams that they can do something with their lives. Even indentured servants had the hope of someday owning land as soon as they were done with their service. It was unlikely but they had hope.

The Atlantic Ocean made communications hard between England and the colonies. Because of the difficulties in communication, the colonists developed an independent spirit. Harvard College allowed most Americans to read protests against British injustice printed in papers, pamphlets, and books. The college provided education and writings of Greek philosophers such at John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau. The ideas of these Greek philosophers that men were created equal dwelled in these colonists mind.

England expected the American Colonies to serve it’s economic interests, and it regulated colonial trade. In general, the colonists accepted British regulations. For example, they agreed not to manufacture goods that would compete with British products. Things began to change in the 1700’s.

England had largely neglected the administration of the American Colonies while it fought France in a series of wars during the 1700’s. But after the French and Indian War ended, the British government sought to tighten it’s control over the colonies in fear that the colonies have gotten too powerful. The treaty of 1763 ending this war made England master of Canada and of the land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The chief motive had been nation advantage: but as one of the results the 13 colonies might now live in peace. George Grenville, Britain’s prime minister in 1763, did not concede that the colonists had any political rights. He now sough ways to make the colonies most profitable to England at the least expense.

Settlers were pouring into the Ohio Valley, and land speculators were busy with schemes for opening the country won at so great a sacrifice from the French. Such activity excited the worst fears of the Indians. That year, a great chieftain, Pontiac united the tribes and led them in a series of destructive raids on the advancing frontier. Britain feared a long and bloody Indian war, which it could not afford. To quiet the Indians, England issued the Proclamation of 1763. This decree prohibited settlers from buying lands beyond a line that ran through the sources of the rivers flowing into the Atlantic. England, it seemed, meant to favor the Indians and the fur traders. It would do so at the expense of the pioneer, the land speculator, and the colony whose charter gave it a claim to a section of the interior extending westward to the Mississippi River. But the settlements east of the “Proclamation Line” were not to be neglected. For their defense England decided to station a large army on the frontier. England decreed that the colonies should contribute toward the expense of this protection by paying taxes imposed by Parliament. The Americans having been accustomed to self-government, strongly resisted the new laws, especially tax laws.

The Sugar Act placed a three-penny tax on each gallon of molasses entering the colonies from ports outside the British Empire. Several Northern colonies had thriving run industries that depended on imported molasses. Run producers angrily protested that tax would eat up their profits. The Quartering Act ordered the colonies to supply the soldiers with living quarters, fuel, candles, and cider or beer.

The Stamp Act levied a direct tax on all newspapers printed in the colonies and on most commercial and legal documents used in business. The Stamp Act resulted in riots. The objections of the Stamp Act Congress stemmed from the colonists’ belief that the right of taxation belonged only to the people and their elected representatives. The delegates argued that Parliament had no power to tax the colonies because the colonies had no representative in Parliament. Their argument was simply, “no taxation without representation.”

Parliament abolished the Stamp Act in 1766, but passed the Declaratory Act. The Declaratory Act stated that the king and Parliament had full legislative authority over the colonies in all matters. The Exchequer Charles Townshend soon developed a new plan for raising money from the colonies in and indirect way. The Townshend Acts placed duties on glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea imported into the colonies. Another act set up a customs agency in Boston to collect them efficiently. The colonists accepted Britain’s right to regulate their trade, but they argued that the Townshend duties were taxes in disguise. To protest the duties, Americans stopped buying British goods.

To avoid paying the Townshend duty on tea, colonial merchants smuggled in tea from the Netherlands. Britain’s East India Company had been the chief source of tea for the colonies. The smuggling hurt the company financially, and it asked Parliament for help. Parliament passed the tea Act, which enabled the East India Company to sell its tea below the price of smuggled tea. This led to the Boston Tea Party.

England responded to the Boston Tea Party by passing several laws that became know as the Intolerable Acts. One law closed Boston Harbor until Bostonians paid for the destroyed tea. Another law restricted the activities of the Massachusetts legislature and gave added powers to the post of governor of Massachusetts. Those powers in effect made him dictator. The third measure provide d that British officials accused of committing crimes in a colony might be taken to England for trial. The fourth act allowed the governor of Massachusetts to quarter soldiers at Boston in taverns and unoccupied buildings. The last Intolerable act extended the boundaries of the province of Quebec to the Ohio River and gave the Roman Catholics in the province both religious liberty and the double protection of French and English law. Several committees called for a convention of delegates from the colonies to organize resistance to the Intolerable Acts. The convention was later to be called the Continental Congress.

The First continental Congress met in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26, 1774 to protest the Intolerable Acts. The Congress voted to cut off colonial trade with England unless Parliament abolished the Intolerable Acts. It also approved resolutions advising the colonies to begin trainin the citizens for war. None of the delegates to the First Continental Congress called for independence from England. Instead, the delegated hoped that the colonies would regain the rights which Parliament had taken away. The congress agreed to hold another Continental Congress in may 1775 if England did not change its policies before that time.

The defects of British rule was the main contribution of the American Revolution. For a long time England had let the colonies drift along with little restraint. There was no central colonial office which weas supposed to supervise them; executive authority in England was divided among several ministers and commissions that did not act quickly or in unison. The Board of Trade, which knew more about the colnies than any other body, did not have the power either to ecide things or to enforce decrees. English politics were filled with corruption, and agents sent to Anmerica were often brive-taking politicians too incompetent for good positions at home. Relations between the colonists and England steadily worsened from 1763-1775. This was the time when Parliament passed a number of laws to increase Great Britain’s income from the colonies. The colonists reacted angrily. They lived far from Britain and had grown increasingly self-reliant. Many Americans believed that the new British policies threatened their freedom. In late 1774, England’s King George III declared, “The die is now cast, the colonies must either submit or triumph.” A few months later, the Revolutionary War broke out.


  1. American Revolution. World Book Encyclopedia. World Book Inc. Chicago: Illinois. 1997. Pg. 270-274.
  2. American Revolution. Comptons Interactive Encyclopedia. 1994
  3. Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Cambridge: Massachusetts. 1967.
  4. Goldfield, David etal. The American Journey: A history of the Untied States. Prentice hall. Upper Saddle River: New Jersey. 1998. Pg. 130-153.

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