The Origins of the American Revolution. 1763 - 1776. England Vs. France.
1763 - 1776
England and France were competing for power and influence in the New World. Between 1689 and 1748, the two nations fought three major wars against one another. Then, in 1754, conflicting interests in North American would provoke an even larger conflict – the French and Indian War of 1756 – 1763.
ThE French plan to unify their holdings
Washington played a central role in starting the French and Indian War. At the time, he was an English soldier. Twenty years later, he would lead Americans against England (with aid from the French!)
Major General Edward Braddock
In 1754, the colonists opted for death!
The European View
An American Perspective
From the perspective of Native Americans – and one might argue that American Colonists had a more complicated understanding of this than the British – the war was a conflict between the French and the English and the Iroquois Confederation. And the Indians were the ones who held the balance of power at stake.
From the European perspective, the conflict was simple. French colonists and their allies – the Iroquois Confederation – were fighting against the British and their colonial partners – the American colonists. The side with the more cohesive bond was likely to win the conflict. But this is a little bit of an oversimplification as well.
At the end of the French and Indian War, England is the most powerful nation on Earth, has full possession of France’s North American colonies, and controls markets in North America and Europe. Although thrilled to have been victorious, the British were also overextended, and their treasury was exhausted. Good tax policy and revenue plans would be required in order to maintain the empire they had created and gain greater prosperity.
A few little offshore fishing islands.
England had, in fact, poured enormous resources into winning the battle with the French. They were fearful of any more immediate conflicts, and it was their intention to collect taxes from the colonists themselves – to some extent. At the very least, they sought to enforce existing laws – and to prevent American smugglers from avoiding import duties from trade with the French. From the perspective of the English, it was perfectly reasonable to demand that the American colonists pay some share of the burden for protecting the empire – after all, they were the direct beneficiaries of the military and commerce England provided.
The Proclamation of 1763 was in part a response to Pontiac’s War. Realizing that the British Empire was overextended, the British policies discouraged further encroachment upon Native American lands, which might risk war.
From the American colonists perspective, though, there were two major objections.
Marxist historians, or economic determinists, would suggest that the American objected to paying this tax because it robbed them of property –and the opportunity to gain property.
A more convincing school of thought is that American objected to the principle of taxation – that in this case, a tax being collected domestically was not approved by any representative body. “Taxation Without Representation” was akin to slavery, in the minds of English Colonial Americans.
The response to the Stamp Act was enormous. Patrick Henry delivered the famous “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!” speech in Virginia. The Sons of Liberty were founded in Boston, and they hung in effigy tax collectors who would dare collect funds from the Parliament issued stamps. The use of physical intimidation – literally roughing up the tax collectors, vandalizing homes, or threatening anyone who considered accepting the position as a tax collector – was largely successful. Indeed, no American born colonist would take the position in Massachusetts – for fear of what might happen to them if they attempted to take up the tax.
Many colonists – especially in merchant centers like New York – decided to agree to non-importation rules. No English goods would be imported or sold in the Colonies. Those who violated the rule would be roughed up. Groups like the Sons of Liberty enforced the rules, like it or not. In the case of the Stamp Act, the non-importation agreements worked!
In protest, the American colonists refused to buy English products. Non-importation treaties and boycotts against English goods were enforced strictly by vigilante groups like the Sons of Liberty – who protected smugglers from customs agents, and punished those who violated the boycotts! Merchants were not permitted to import goods from England and sell them. Consumers were banned from purchasing English goods – and held to their commitments by force when necessary.
In an effort to reassert themselves, the Townshend Acts were passed. After the Declaratory Act was passed by the Parliament, they quickly attempted to demonstrate the Empires mastery over the islands by focusing on new revenue collection techniques:
Editorials were written, and circular letters against the taxes were distributed; the Virginia Resolves were passed by the House of Burgesses claiming only their taxes were legitimate; non-importation treaties were resumed, and ladies began producing homespun clothing.
March 5, 1770,the Boston Massacre takes place. Crispus Attucks, a free black man, was killed in the shooting. John Adams would defend the soldiers.