Could America have gradually and peacefully developed independence within the British Common wealth, as Canada later did, rather than engaging in a violent revolt? Soon after England’s victory in the Seven Years’ War, England struggled with the financial costs of the war. England’s Parliament tried to establish power in the New World by issuing a series of laws. England attempted to have the colonies help pay for the cost of the war that would later help lead to revolt in America. Prior to the Seven Years’ War, the English rarely intervened with colonial business.
It was during this time that the colonies began gradually to think and act independently of England. This scared England, and initiated a period in which they became more involved in the colony’s growth. The passage of these laws undermined the Colonist’s loyalty to England and stirred the Americans to fight for their freedom. What began as a fight over economic policies soon deteriorated into the difference in Americans and Britons political views, which help lead to the violence of the American Revolution (The American Pageant, pg 122).
I believe a violent revolt could have been prevented only if England hadn’t pushed the Colonies past the point of non-violent resolutions. Before 1763, the only British laws that truly affected the colonists were the Navigation Acts, which monitored the colony’s trade so that it traded solely with England. As this law was not rigidly enforced, the colonists accepted it with little fuss. The colonies also accepted England’s right to monitor trade. The change of course in 1763 was what really riled the colonists.
England began to slowly tighten its imperial grip on the colonies by ordering the British navy to begin strictly enforcing the Navigation Laws (The American Pageant, pg 125). Additional problems began when. This was a powerful weapon against smuggling, but most importantly to the Colonists; it allowed the invasion of their privacy. This was crossing the line and violating the rights of an English man. During the Seven Years War, the British sent over ten thousand troops to America to deal with property problems at the frontier.
This cost a large amount of money, and Britain did not want to see the sum come out of its own pocket. To pay for some of the expense, Britain began to pass acts to tax the colonists and lighten the severe debt the empire was in. Acts Such as The Sugar Act of 1764, The quartering Act of 1765, The Stamp Act of 1765, and the Declaratory Act were such acts that place taxes on goods the colonists received from England and cause tension in which the colonists believed were unjust and unwarranted. The Sugar Act of 1764 was an example of a tax that had many affects on the Colonial lifestyle.
Among various provisions this act raised the price of imported sugar from the Indies (The American pageant, pg. 126). This act was accompanied by a strict enforcing of the former Navigation Laws due to the sudden increase of smuggling. This enhanced the tension between England and the New World. “The law also changed trials for offenders; they were held away from the place of the crime, and the judge was awarded a percentage of the confiscated goods, increasing the number of guilty sentences handed down (America’s Homepage).
In reality, the laws were so regulated it was hard not to make an error. The Quartering Act in 1765 was a burden to all the colonists; it required certain colonies to provide food and housing to the British Troops on demand (The American pageant, pg. 126). Many viewed this as an indirect tax, though an inexpensive one. While the previously passed laws caused some protest, the one that brought out the most public opposition was the Stamp Act in 1765. The Sugar Act had failed to produce enough money, and Parliament was forced to pass the Stamp Act.
The Act stated that all Americans must use specially stamped paper for printing bills, legal documents, even playing cards (The American pageant, pg. 126). England saw these taxes as reasonable; after all, the Americans were merely paying for the soldiers in their colonies, a measure for their safety. As Americans did not deem the soldier’s presence as necessary in the New World, obviously they despised the tax. And worst of all, these taxes were decreed without any word from an American, as there was no representative for the New World in the British parliament.
Americans believed it was understandable for the British to legislate when the subject involved the Empire as a whole, such as trade, but only Colonists could tax colonists, not the British government. The Prime Minister claimed that the Colonists were “virtually represented” in parliament: each member stood for the empire as a whole (The American Pageant, pg. 126-127). The Colonists disagreed because they believed that Parliament did not care about or understand them and therefore did not have the American people’s best interest at heart.
The acts imposed by England to try to control and monitor America only succeeded in furthering its independence. The Colonists were left with two options as a result of the Stamp Act, neither of which were very appealing; either confront parliament, and risk a fight with the much larger and more powerful mother land of England, or succumb to the act without complaining and possibly give up the right to self govern for good. The Colonists began to feel as though England did not have their best interests in hand and began to start a unification process of the colonies.
The first in this process was the coming together of 27 delegates from nine of the thirteen colonies in 1765, which became known as the Stamp Act Congress. The Stamp Act Congress met and decided that Parliament cannot tax the colonists or deny their right to a trial by jury. The congress, led by the elite upper class, was careful to control the rebellion; thereby, not having to send costly troops to maintain peace. Merchants of the colonies began to boycott and adopt non-importation agreements of British goods. The colonists began to wear woolen garments and rely on their own land to provide goods.
Colonists began to come together as a nation and not just a people. British opposition groups began to appear such as the Sons and Daughters of Liberty who sometimes took the law into their own hands with violent protests and coercive acts undermining British rule. The business communities in England appealed to parliament to repeal the stamp act or have all the merchants go bankrupt. In March of 1766, the Stamp Act was revoked, marking the first victory in the long journey to America’s independence. But, it was a small one and this was not to be the end of the struggle.
In its place, the Declaratory Act was placed. It was a subtly worded act, which confirmed Parliament’s right to legislate over the colonies always and in all cases (The American Pageant, pg 128). Charles Townshend, who took control of the British ministry, enacted the Townshend Acts in 1767, which placed a small import duty on glass, white lead, paper, paint, and tea. This Act, unlike the Stamp act, placed an indirect customs duty payable at American ports (The American Pageant, pg 129). To the colonists it was viewed in the same way as a tax without representation.
Townshend also passed the Suspending act, which nullified all acts from New York after October 1st for refusing to pay their expenses for the soldiers (The American Pageant, pg. 129). Smuggling began to become more rampant in the colonies. Colonists began to act as they did when the Stamp Act was enacted. In 1768, to control the outbreak against law and order, two regiments of British troops were landed in Boston. In 1770, the Boston Massacre took place, in which six Colonists were killed after provoking a group of soldiers.
This was arguably the first blood spilled in the name of the American Revolution. Committees were established to promote opposition to England and its Acts. The most memorable of these committees was that of the Continental Congress of 1774, which met from September 5 to October 26, 1774. During it’s deliberation, The Congress drafted many papers urging the British merchants to place pressure on parliament to repeal the Townshend Duties and the Delclaration of Rights (The American Pageant, pg 134).
Brittan’s parliament rejected the Congresses petitions. The Colonies began collecting muskets and various weapons and militia’s began drilling in the open. Colonists began to rebel against England rule and a clash between the colonists and England seemed inevitable (The American Pageant pg 134). British soldiers were dispatched to Lexington to disperse the “rebels” and when the refused shots were fired which killed eight Americans and wounded several more (The American Pageant pg. 134-135).
This is known as the Battle of Lexington, the first battle in an eight-year war between the colonies and Britain. The road to revolution was irreversible when the Stamp Act was passed. It was at this point that the different views of the Americans and the British really began to show through. When this happened, the Americans had already developed such a sense of independence that nothing the British could have done could have destroyed it. Once this self-reliance was obtained there was nothing the British could do to repress it.
The road to the American Revolution was long and difficult. If Britain wouldn’t have insisted on passing act after act, to tax the colonies and ruin their devotion to the crown a violent revolution could have been avoided. Through all of the trouble the acts caused, it pushed the colonies into merging with each other. Once together as a whole, the colonies were able to develop their own individuality and defeat the British army for their independence. Once the bloodshed had started, for the American’s it was fight or be controlled. The American’s chose to fight.