Blog Post

The American Revolution

The American Revolution is an astonishing case of mismanagement, miscommunication, and unchecked egos at it’s finest. If the American colonies were properly managed and overseen perhaps the entire situation could have been avoided. However, it did happen and it happened for a reason, so it is necessary to look deeper and find out what exactly went wrong.

At the core of everything that started the colonies displeasure with Britain began because Britain established a precedent of salutary neglect. Salutary neglect was the non-enforcement of parliamentary laws that were meant to keep the colonies obedient to the Crown. Britain had failed to define the colonies’ relationship to the empire and institute a coherent program of imperial reform due to infighting between parties, constant war, and divided opinions on how to pay back their debts. The Tory’s and Old Whigs wanted to establish an authoritarian empire and raise taxes and reduce spending. However, the radical Whigs argued that economic growth and not taxes would pay back the debt they owed faster. In addition to the salutary neglect, Samuel Adams described the colonies as a “separate body politic” from Britain and had created a colonial assembly that behaved like a government that taxed its people. Once they lobbied the British government to define their assemblies’ legal abilities, but the nation was too distracted by wats to care. The colonies interpreted the nonresponse as a condoning of their legal powers, but the Crown and Parliament disagreed.

However, the precedent of salutary neglect began to negatively affect the British empire when they started racking up debt. Specifically, the Seven Years War was the main culprit. The war caused Britain to double it’s national debt to 13.5 times its annual revenue which made them attempt to consolidate control of the colonies which led to resistance. Like I’ve said above, there was infighting between parties who couldn’t come to an agreement on how to deal with the national debt, but they did try to reform starting in 1763.

One of the first attempts to minimize money spent on the colonies was the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which forbade settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains in order to limit costly wars with the Native Americans. However, the colonies felt they had the right to colonize the land they’d fought for with the British no matter how unnecessary it was to take it. In addition to this was a change in public thinking. The Englightenment and Great Awakening challenged ideas about authority which taught them to question it.

After this, the Crown passed a series of unpopular Acts in order to make money from the colonies instead of them being another debt in their checkbooks. The Sugar and Currency Act were passed in 1764. Then the Stamp Act was passed in 1965 which was the first tax on the colonists by the British and directly affected most of the population rather than just merchants who were directly affected by the Sugar Act. After a public outcry by elites, merchants, and colonists it was repealed. However, during the celebration for getting the Act repealed, Britain quietly passed the Declaratory Act which allowed Britain to make any laws without input from the colonies.

All of these taxes led to non-ratified policies of non-importation and non-consumption agreements of British goods which led to almost all of them being repealed. Then the Tea Act was passed and required colonists who bought British tea pay when the ships docked. In order to keep the tea from reaching port a group called the Boston Sons of Liberty led by Samuel Adams and John Hancock orchestrated the Boston Tea Party. This led to the Coercive Acts or Intolerable Acts in order to get Boston under control. These shut the harbor down, put the colonial government entirely under British control, allowing royal officials accused of a crime be tried in Britain rather than in Massachusetts, and the Quartering Act. In response, other colonies came to the aid of Boston and created committees. The Committees of Correspondence agreed to send delegates to a Continental Congress to coordinate an intercolonial response which of course led to the revolution.

The first battle was in Massachusetts in Lexington and Concord when British regiments went to seize local militias’ arms and powder stores, but were stopped by the town militia. This led to the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Continental Congress struggling to form a response. The Congress adopted the Massachusetts militia, formed a Continental Army with George Washington as commander in chief and justified their position with a declaration, but also drafted an “Olive Branch Petition” in hopes of reconciliation with the Crown. However, the king was confident in his ability to quash the revolution and rejected their petition. With the support of the French, General Cornwallis hit the British with a final blow in Yorktown. This left the British down another army and with no public support, so peace negotiations took place in France and the war ended on September 3, 1783.

There were many consequences of the American Revolution. There was increased participation in politics and government afterwards, the legal institutionalization of religious toleration, it ended the mercantilist economy, opened up more opportunities in trade and manufacturing, freed some enslaved people whose generals kept their promises most of which fought for the British, the growth and diffusion of the population mostly westward and the opening up of Native Americans to white settlers now that the British were no longer restricting colonies’ access to land past the Appalachian Mountains. There was also the creation of state Constitutions in 1776 and 1777 which were both based on popular sovereignty or that the power of the government comes from the people. The first constitution was The Articles of Confederation which gave the states too much power and not enough power and then our current Constitution.