Essay, Research Paper: American Revolution

American History

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Among the many complex factors that contributed to instigating the
American Revolution, two stand out most clearly: England’s imposition of
taxation on the colonies and the failure of the British to gain consent of those
being governed, along with the military measures England took on the colonists.
Adding to these aforementioned factors were the religious and political legacy
of the colonies, and the restriction of civil liberties by the British.
Parliamentary taxation was undoubtedly one of the greatest factors inspiring the
American public to rebel in the years leading up to the American Revolution. One
of the most striking examples of this kind of taxation was the Stamp Act of
1765. After many years of fighting, England badly needed revenues from their
colonies, and they sought to acquire these revenues from the New World, thereby
increasing their influence over the colonial governments. These theories of
“New Imperialism” were what prompted Prime Minister Grenville to pass the
Stamp Act. The Stamp Act of 1765 stated that persons of almost any profession
were obliged to buy stamps for their documents. In other words, the act imposed
a tax on every printed document in the colonies. For example, a printer had to
buy stamps in order to legally be able to distribute his publications. While the
act itself was not so detrimental to the economy, it was the ideals behind the
act (a direct attempt on the part of the mother country to further itself and
raise revenues in the colonies) which drove the revolutionaries’ cause. In
October of 1765, the same year the act was passed, the Stamp Act Congress met
with delegates from nine colonies and petitioned the King of England, along with
the two houses of Parliament. This petition and reaction to the act became the
first formal cry for reformation with regard to England’s control over
America. In addition to the Stamp Act of 1765, other various taxations aroused a
spirit of revolution in America. One year before the Stamp Act, the Sugar Act of
1764 lowered the duty on molasses and raised the duty on sugar. While this act
was designed to raise money, the majority of the Americans did not view it as
any different than traditional taxations. Another set of taxes, known as the
Townshend Duties, taxed goods imported to the colonies from England. Townshend
judged this to be more practical because the duty was on “external” goods
(those imported to the country) rather than “internal” goods, which the
Stamp Act had attempted to address. However, the already distraught and
rebellious American public would not allow it. Soon after the Townshend Duties,
the colonial governments were urged by the Massachusetts Assembly to revolt and
stand up against every tax, external or internal, imposed by Parliament.
Eventually, as a result of all the taxes and regulations, the expression “no
taxation without representation” emerged. The Americans were clear and concise
on what they wanted: Whether the tax be internal or external, whether it be
designed to raise revenue or control trade, it could not exist without the
consent of the colonists who were being taxed. The final test of will came when
the British government passed the Tea Act of 1773. This act effectively cut out
the middleman, or colonial merchant, in the tea trade between Britain and
America. This infuriated the colonial merchants, because a powerful monopoly had
taken away their ability to trade in the valuable tea. Not only did the economic
results of the Tea Act anger the merchants, but also the idea of taxation
without representation once again sprang to the forefront of American minds. The
complete boycott of tea by Americans ensued. This boycott was extremely
important, because it unified the colonies in a mass popular protest. It is also
worth noting that American women became actively involved in this protest, since
they were the main consumers of tea in America. Riots and protests burst across
the county, the biggest and most influential one being the famous “Boston Tea
Party”. In this riot, an English boat carrying tea shipments was docked in the
Boston Harbor. Three bands of fifty men each went aboard the ship, and wildly
emptied the tea chests overboard into the harbor. The Boston Massacre
exemplifies how British military measures backfired and allowed the Americans to
gain a sense of unity in working towards a common goal of independence. What
actually happened in the event was a bit unclear to historians. It seems as
though there was a scuffle between British soldiers stationed in the town of
Boston and Boston laborers. The soldiers had started to compete with the
Bostonians for jobs during their off-duty hours, and, to put it lightly, the
Bostonians were not pleased. On March 5th, 1770, the situation got out of hand.
In the end, British soldiers killed 5 innocent people when they fired into the
angry crowd. This “Boston Massacre” was used as pro-revolutionary propaganda
and spread across America like wildfire the injustices of British rule. Paul
Revere painted horrid images of the soldiers ruthlessly killing the innocent
workers, and Samuel Adams, one of the most effective radicals in America, told
stories of oppression, corruption, and sin in England. He organized a
“committee of correspondence,” which openly publicized the complaints
American had with England, and other colonies followed Massachusetts’s example
in forming political organizations of their own. It could be said that if not
for the legacy of religious and political ideas in the colonies, the spirit of
revolution would never have had the potential to exist in America. In the early
1760’s, when the revolutionary ideas were just starting to emerge, people
could look to two sources of information in order to justify their radical
ideas: the Bible and John Locke. The Bible told stories of an unjust King in
Israel and how he was overthrown when he imposed unfair taxes on his people.
This allowed the colonists to believe God was on their side, and that he
supported what they were doing: rebelling against unjust laws. The colonists
also looked to another man for ideas on revolution, an Enlightenment philosopher
named John Locke. Ironically enough, Locke, one of the most important men in
prompting the Americans to revolt against England, was English himself. An
extremely influential man, he argued that humans had “natural rights” to
life, liberty, and property. If the government at any point took these natural
rights away from the people, it was not only acceptable, but considered the
people’s duty to rebel. Traces of Locke’s ideas can still be seen in the
Declaration of Independence, which states every man has the natural right to
“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The restriction of civil
liberties by the British on the Americans was another factor that prompted the
revolution in 1776. The glaring example in this case would be the Mutiny
(Quartering) Act of 1765. In this act, the colonists were forced to assist in
maintaining and providing quarters for the British Army. In modern times, this
could be deemed completely unconstitutional; however, there existed no
constitution during the times of the Quartering Act. The fact that there was a
strong resentment towards the British by the colonists would be an
understatement. When they were obliged to live with the people they resented, a
spirit of revolution was evoked. There already existed strong feelings of
resentment towards England due to the Currency Act of 1764. This unjust act took
away the colonial assembly’s ability to issue paper money, as well as to
retire all paper money currently in circulation. These revolutionary ideas were
awoken once again, when in 1767, Townshend suspended the New York Assembly. His
justification for suspending the Assembly was “a reaction to the colonist’s
inability to follow the Quartering Act”. The Americans were infuriated when
they rebelled before in hopes of reform, they instead received more oppression
and restriction of civil liberties from England. If these factors had not
intersected in the ways that they did, the Americans would most likely not have
rebelled in 1776. First, they needed to have a spirit of revolution in their
minds, which was provided to them by John Locke and then was justified
religiously by the Bible. Second, Britain had to take measures that would
instigate and anger the people. They did this when they restricted their civil
liberties in various Acts. Finally, there had to be measures taken that were so
oppressive and unjust that it would unify the Americans to rebel against
Britain, which happened when Britain taxed without their consent, and
ultimately, when they crossed the line and killed innocent Bostonians in

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