Key Highlights & Facts
- By the 17th Century, there was a lot of discontent in the colonies over the manner in which England was governing the colonist.
- Parliament had passed Coercive and Intolerable laws that levied heavy taxes upon colonies, which lead to an uprising in Massachusetts called the Tea Party and eventually the American War of Independence.
- In 1783, Britain recognized the American Independence and America
Causes of the Revolution
Present day America evolved from two colonies in Jamestown and Virginia established in the 1500s to 13 Colonies categorized according to regions as the New England colonies, which included Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. The middle colonies were New York, New Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Jersey and lastly the Southern colonies Maryland, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia.
By the 17th Century, there was a lot of discontent in the colonies over the manner in which England was governing the colonist. Initially, the colonist understood that they would enjoy the same rights as Englishmen and women despite being in distant lands. However, colonies were a part of England’s new markets for exports and sources for raw materials for the development of export products. Further to the preceding, England used both diplomacy and war to establish colonies, and over time the cost of these wars, mainly the French and Indians Wars that ended in 1763 was prohibitive.
Therefore, England perceived that their financial recovery would be with the assistance of the colonies to pay the rising national debt incurred because of the wars in the colonies. To raise money, England developed and passed a flurry of laws such as the Navigation Acts, the Stamp Act and the Revenue Act that imposed taxes upon colonies, commodities of trade and outlined rules of engagement that favored them at the exclusion of all others including the colonists in America. This manner of taxation raised a question on the constitutional basis of England authority to tax the colonies. The colonies did not have representation in England’s Parliament, hence the roots of the “no taxation without representation” movement that that was used to drum up support for America from France and Spain during the Revolution War.
October 1765, the colonial representatives in America held a meeting of their initiative for the first time to, “mobilizes colonial opinion against parliamentary interference in American affairs.” Nine colonies were represented in the Congress, and they passed resolutions asserting their right, and petitioning for the removal of the coercive taxes. From this date, the movements and rebellions demanding for the political liberty of America from England became rampant.
Noting that England was taking no action, Boston Massachusetts protested against the local stamp collector Andrew Oliver who resigned from office. There was no one to enforce the Stamp Act in the colony. The Stamp officials in the other colonies resigned in bids to avoid public ousting. In 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act passed the Declaratory Act asserting their authority over the territories. In 1767, Parliament in asserting their right over colonies as provided in the Declaratory Act passed the Townshend Act that imposed taxes on glass, paint, lead, paper, and tea imported into America to raise money for defending the colonies and pay for royal officials.
Americans formed non-importation associations so that manufacturers and merchants in Britain would pressure Parliament to repeal the law, following a decline of demand for exports to America. Whereas men signed up for membership into the associations, women provided alternatives to tea and cloth to sustain the boycott. Tradings declined, and in 1770, Parliament repealed the Townshend Act.
In December 1773, the Boston Tea Party incident occurred in direct opposition to the Tea Act that gave the East India Company an exclusive license to import and distribute tea to the American colonies. EIC sold the tea for 10s per pound, half its previous price and less than the cost of smuggled Dutch tea because the company sold the tea directly through its agents and not through brokers. Parliament reacting to to the Boston Tea Party passed some Coercive Acts called by the colonist’s Intolerable Acts. The Port Act closed the Boston Harbor. The Massachusetts Charter of 1691 was revoked, and it was converted into a royal colony through the Massachusetts Government Act. The royal officials appointed were accused of committing felonies but were tried in England through the Administration of Justice Act. To replace the royal officials, the King also put the colony under military rule by appointing General Thomas Gage, head of the British army to North America as governor of the colony.
However, not all the colonies were in support of the idea of a revolution, the middle colonies for instance that made up of mixed European settlers were dispassionate, in comparison to the impetuous passion of the New England Colonies. There were divisions even among the supporters of the revolution concerning the approach the revolution should take, and some were more inclined to methods that were less confrontational like Quakers and other members of the middle and Southern colonies. However, lawyers, settlers from the lower class and merchants were in support of a violent revolution especially, when it was obvious King George III was unwilling to make concessions in regards to American liberties.
The other colonies rallied behind Massachusetts and met in a Continental Congress in Philadelphia. They called for the repeal of the unconstitutional Coercive Acts and threatened to form a continental non-importation association that would boycott all of the British products. They also called a second continental congress on 10 May 1775 and organized for a congress of colonies to coordinate the revolution at the local and colony level. George Washington was elected commander of the Continental Army. On 4 July 1776, the Americans issued a Declaration of Independence from Britain.
The Revolution War erupted on 19 April 1775 after it was understood that only the use of force, and not ideology and conversations between England the colonies would deliver a consensus. The British underestimated America’s commitment for independence and readiness for war. General Thomas Gage went to Boston with a few royal soldiers to restore order and the Crowns command in Massachusetts. Upon arrival, he found that insurgents had forcefully removed officials appointed under the Massachusetts Government Act.
The battle of Lexington occurred and was followed by the battle of Concord, both resulted in many casualties from the side of the royal army, and more were added in the Battle of Bunker on 17 June 1775. In March 1776, the Continental Army took control of the Dorchester Heights harbor after the British army fled.
In New York Philadelphia, Washington 19,000 men with only a few months of experience faced up against a British army of 30,000 experienced soldiers. He lost the Battle of Brooklyn Heights and transferred the remaining of his men to Manhattan. On October 28, he fought a battle at the White Plains Westchester County and went to New Jersey, found that people had given up and were signing loyalty oaths to the King. As Washington was on the brink of defeat, in 1778 French started negotiating an alliance and signed a treaty of military cooperation, amity, and commerce, which Congress ratified in September. Britain now had to change tact to not only fight the Americans but also protect its homeland and property in the West Indies against the dominant French.
The British started to concentrate on protecting just the Southern colonies. However, the militia would emerge on territories already conquered by the British when the army moved to another section, and civil war erupted in many of the colonies. Later, Parliament decided to stop funding the British army because they were steadily on a losing streak and their army surrendered in 1781. In 1783, Britain recognized the American Independence and America acquired all the land east of the Mississippi until Canada, and Spain gave up Florida.
The Declaration of Independence 1776, called on the colonies to “alter or abolish” governments that did not secure the interest of the people and adopt other forms of governments that would pursue the people’s safety and happiness. Ten states in the same year wrote new constitutions and formed republican governments, in direct opposition to monarchs or hereditary leadership. Republican governments derive their authority from the people in the form of social contract. Connecticut and Rhode Island adjusted their colonial charters followed by New York and Georgia 1777 and later Vermont, which was wrestling form, New York. From the year of the declaration to 1780, the States adjusted their constitutions to fit their realities. In time, there was some separation of powers between bicameral legislatures, executives and judiciary from a period during which most powers was given to the legislatures as the people directly elected them.
The Articles of Confederation were America’s first constitution. It was ratified on 1 March 1781 and was reflective of the relationship America had with British in its avoidance of creating a central government with too much power. The Articles provided that the States were independent and established a congress that was a point of last resort when there were disputes among states. It did not have a centralized executive, therefore a President and it did not have a centralized judiciary there for any Supreme Court. In 1871, the Federal Constitution which corrected the weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation was ratified.