Between 1763 and 1783, Americans increasingly rebelled against English rule, declared independence, and finally won the military struggle against the British, establishing the United States of America.
Structure of Colonial Society
At the end of the Seven Years' War, American society, on the whole, was young, optimistic and prosperous, and Americans looked to the future with considerable political and economic expectation. They did not expect revolution or look forward to national independence.
Breakdown of Political Trust
Through the mounting conflict that culminated in 1776, King George III, his ministers, and Parliament based their stance on inaccurate information from the colonies while stubbornly defending Parliament’s “sovereign supreme power over every part of the dominions of state.” It was clear that the colonists and individuals in England did not understand each other or the stakes at hand, and soon compromise became difficult.
No Taxation Without Representation: The American Perspective
The political conflict that emerged after the Seven Years’ War forced the Americans to refine their views on the powers of colonial assemblies, the meaning of representative government, and the freedom from England’s revenue taxation.
Ideas About Power and Virtue
Although many of the political ideals of the American colonists were based on the traditions and theories of John Locke and the Commonwealthmen, their ideology also included a heavy emphasis on religious and moral components that most likely emanated from the Great Awakening. American political ideology found power dangerous unless countered by virtue; to believers political error resulted from corruption and sin.
Eroding the Bonds of Empire
After the war with the French, the British maintained a large military presence in the colonies, which Americans opposed for two reasons: British troops failed to protect the thousands of Americans who died during uprisings by the Native Americans of the backcountry; and after the Proclamation of 1763 was issued, British troops obstructed western settlement.
Paying Off the National Debt
When Grenville insisted that Americans help pay for these British troops with new taxes and restrictions on trade, well-to-do Americans involved in commerce quickly protested it as a scheme that deprived the colonies’ of their right to assess their own taxes.
The protests of gentlemen grew to a mass movement with opposition to Britain’s Stamp Act. Americans resisted in colonial assemblies, in an inter-colonial “congress,” in the streets, and in an import boycott effected by the Sons of Liberty and by newly mobilized colonial women.
Failed Attempts to Save the Empire
A new English government repealed the offensive Stamp Act while maintaining the principle of “parliamentary supremacy,” including the right to revenue taxation, but the crisis had reduced American respect and loyalty for Britain’s imperial officeholders.
Fueling the Crisis
Townshend’s new ministry tried new taxes on American imports and new enforcement mechanisms, including custom’s commissioners supported by admiralty courts. Americans resisted with a boycott, “rituals of non-consumption,” and a circular letter suggesting ways to thwart the acts.
Fatal Show of Force
A British transfer of troops to Boston heightened tensions ever more, and the colonists again resisted. One confrontation with British troops resulted in the “Boston Massacre,” which became an effective propaganda tool for the American resistance. Parliament, now led by Lord North, tried to stem the tide of colonial agitation by dropping all of the Townshend duties except that on tea, which was left as a symbol of Parliament’s sovereignty.
Lat Days of the Old Order, 1770-1773
A brief period of calm and apparent reconciliation followed the Boston Massacre. But the actions of corrupt imperial officials and the continued agitation of radicals through the…