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Chapter 2 The Birth of a Nation. From An Outline of American Literature by Peter B. High. Lack of Government Representation.

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chapter 2 the birth of a nation
Chapter 2The Birth of a Nation

From An Outline of American Literature by Peter B. High

lack of government representation
Lack of Government Representation

While continuing to enforce their control of the colonies, the British refused to allow the colonies government representation in England. The British believed that their own appointed government officials adequately represented the colonies. The colonies resented British control. The colonies created their own laws, and ignored the British laws they did not like. This created considerable tension between Britain and the colonies.


When England colonized America, it had no master plan on how the colonies would be governed. Some colonies governed themselves. Other colonies were governed by the King's officials. The King insisted on his right to create laws governing the colonies. British parliament also created laws that governed the colonies. The British passed laws that were in the best interest of England, not the colonies. For example, They prevented colonists from selling their goods to countries other than Britain, even if the country was willing to pay a higher price than the British. Britain made it difficult for the colonies to trade with the French and the Spanish.


The Boston Massacre Monument

George III, King of Great Britain before and during the American Revolution

The Boston Tea Party

british stamp act 1767
British Stamp Act (1767)

In 1767, the British passed new taxes on glass, paper, teas, paints and other goods shipped to the colonies from Britain. Prime Minister Charles Townsend wanted to raise money to cover the cost for defending the colonies, and pay the salaries of governors and judges in the colonies. These were known as the Townsend Acts. The colonists reacted by refusing to buy British goods. The colonists argued that they shouldn't be taxed since they had no representation in the British government. The colonists rallied behind the phrase, "No Taxation without Representation." Again Britain was forced to remove the taxes, all except for the tax on tea.

the boston massacre 1770
The Boston Massacre (1770)

On the evening of March 5, 1770, Private Hugh White was on guard in front of the Customs House on King Street in Boston. A crowd of people had gathered and began harassing the soldier. His calls for help brought nine soldiers led by Captain Thomas Preston. The crowd continued to harass the soldiers with insults, and were throwing snowballs at them. In the commotion, someone yelled, "Fire!" and soldiers began shooting. Three townspeople were killed and eight more were wounded, two of which died later. No one knew who gave the order to fire.

the boston massacre 17701
The Boston Massacre (1770)

After the shooting, the people of Boston were demanding the soldiers be tried and executed for the shootings. The governor ordered Captain Preston and eight soldiers be put in prison pending a trial. As a result of the trial, Captain Preston and six soldiers were set free. Two of the soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter. They were branded as convicts and then released.

the tea act 1773
The Tea Act (1773)

The British East India Company had controlled all tea trading between India and the British colonies. As a result of the tea tax, the colonies refused to buy the British tea. Instead, they smuggled tea in from Holland. This left the British East India Company with warehouses full of unsold tea, and the company was in danger of going out of business. The British government was determined to prevent the British East India Company from going out of business. It was going to force the colonists to buy their tea.

the tea act 17731
The Tea Act (1773)

In May 1773, Prime Minister North and the British parliament passed the Tea Act. The Tea Act allowed the British East India Company to sell tea directly to the colonists, bypassing the colonial wholesale merchants. This allowed the company to sell their tea cheaper than the colonial merchants who were selling smuggled tea from Holland. This act revived the colonial issue of taxation without representation. The colonies once again demanded that the British government remove the tax on tea. In addition, the dockworkers began refusing to unload the tea from ships. The Governor of Massachusetts demanded that the tea be unloaded. He also demanded that the people pay the taxes and duty on tea.

the boston tea party
The Boston Tea Party

On the evening of December 16, 1773, a group of men calling themselves the "Sons of Liberty" went to the Boston Harbor. The men were dressed as Mohawk Indians. They boarded three British ships, the Beaver, the Eleanor and the Dartmouth, and dumped forty-five tons of tea into the Boston Harbor.

Colonists dressed as Indians throw tea  into the water to protest the tax on tea during what came to be known as "the Boston Tea Party"
quest for independence
Quest for Independence

By 1776, the population of the colonies had reached 2.5 million people. This was about one third the population of Britain. There were now many roads connecting the individual colonies, and newspapers kept them informed about each other. The colonies were beginning to think of themselves as Americans, not as separate colonies. Many colonists were split over the issue of independence. There were both rich and poor colonists on both sides of the independence issue.

quest for independence1
Quest for Independence
  • Large landowners like George Washington, and wealthy businessmen like John Hancock were in favor of independence. There resented British control over their lives, and British interference in their business. On the other hand, some rich colonists were afraid they would lose their wealth if the revolution succeeded. Their wealth was heavily connected to British trade and the British government. Some poor colonists didn't want to be controlled by the wealthy colonists. They either believed the King of England treated them well, or just didn't want to cause trouble. Over time, support for independence grew as issues like taxation without representation angered the local population.
founding fathers
Founding Fathers

Men who led the Revolution of 1775-1783 and wrote constitution of 1789 (p.15)

  • influenced by the European “Age of Reason” or “Enlightenment” – human intelligence could understand both nature and man
  • man could improve himself, no longer consider man as a sinful failure
  • wanted to create a society/nation based on justice and freedom
benjamin franklin 1706 1790
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
  • a non-fiction writer, printer of books and newspapers, inventor
  • felt that writing should always have a practical purpose
  • Poor Richard’s Almanac (1732-1757) – contains useful info for farmers and sailors, the reading material besides the Bible and the newspaper
  • stories about “Poor Richard” as well as his family
benjamin franklin 1706 17901
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
  • invented many sayings about “saving money” and “working hard” (p.16-17)
  • invented one type of short prose, “hoax” or the “tall tale” (a funny lie) which greatly influenced the development of a story-telling form in America
  • Autobiography (1771, 1784), his only real book, the first part is an entertaining description of his life up to early manhood, the second part was written in more serious style
  • write about himself for the improvement of others
thomas paine 1737 1809
Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

The greatest pamphlet-writer of the American Revolution

  • Common Sense(1776) – helped unite the feelings against England, “There is something absurd in supposing a continent (America) to be perpetually governed by an island (Britain)” – p.18
  • The Rights of Man (1791-92) – a famous defense of French Revolution
thomas paine
Thomas Paine

On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine published a pamphlet called Common Sense.

In the pamphlet, he spoke openly of independence from Britain and urged a government in which the people ruled through their elected representatives.

The booklet was widely circulated and was very influential

thomas jefferson 1743 1826
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
  • Declaration of Independence – the most important document of the United States (p.19)
  • Style – free from emotional appeals, a clear and logical statement of why America wanted its independence
  • It was signed on July 4, 1776.
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (1784-85) – attacked the slavery system, “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free”
thomas jefferson 1743 18261
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
  • an Enlightenment thinker, believed all humanity is naturally good and men can do the improving by themselves
  • afraid that the commercial pressure of city life could destroy this goodness
  • another threat to American democracy was in the thinking of the Federalists who wanted a strong central government for the new American republic; Jefferson felt that people should be able to change the form of their society whenever they thought it necessary
j hector st john de crevecoeur 1735 1813
J. Hector ST. John de Crevecoeur (1735-1813)
  • “Letters from an American Farmer” (1782) – p.24
  • “What is this American, this new man?”
  • “individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men”
  • Sketches of Eighteenth Century America (not published until 1925)
  • His ideal American – a social man who cooperates with his neighbors while earning his own living from farming