American Rebellion In 1776
Length: 1739 words (5 double-spaced pages)
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Restrictions of Civil Liberty
British military measures
The legacy of colonial religious and political ideas
The mistake that King George and the rest of Britain made was thinking that they could forever keep the colonies under their thumb. These were not the same colonists who came over as British citizens to set up forts. These men and women thought of themselves and American citizens and they did not need a government across the ocean telling them what to do. Ultimately, Britain lost control when they gave in to the colonists' boycotts and showed them that they had the power to run a country, and that Britain feared that power. Through Parliament's ruthless taxation without representation, restrictions upon what colonists had assumed were civil liberties and British military action, Britain and the colonists were thrown into a revolutionary war.
The first time a Parliamentary imposed tax threatened the livelihood of the colonies was in 1733 with the Molasses Act, stemmed from the loss of profit for the British West Indies under the Navigation Act. However, this act was avoidable and rarely paid. Following the long and harrowing French and Indian War, Britain was deep in debt and George Grenville was appointed British Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was determined to pay off the debt by taxing the colonies. He not only reinforced the ignored Navigation Acts, but he placed the new Sugar Act which was similar to the Molasses Act which put a tax on rum and molasses imported from West Indies, but this Act would be enforced. Needless to say, the colonists were not used to this intrusion of Parliament and felt that it was wrong because there were no members in Parliament to represent the colonies. They felt it was a direct violation of their civil liberties and resentment was beginning to spawn. Next was the Currency Act which disregarded the colonies paper money, forcing the colonist to pay in only silver and sending their economy into chaos. A year later, Grenville imposed the Quartering Act which forced the colonists to house and accommodate the British military stationed in their area. It was a slap in the face to have to pay for those who stood for everything the colonists despised. Perhaps the most important and controversial acts were the Stamps Acts that placed a tax on legal documents, almanacs, newspaper, pamphlets, playing cards and dice.
This act placed a large and blatant stamp on all tax items and could not be ignored. In response to this act, the colonists boycotted British goods, mobbed against the tax and set up the Stamp Act Congress to ask the Parliament to repeal this harsh intrusion on colonial freedoms. Because the boycotts threatened British economy, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act and the colonists rejoiced in their success. Their elation didn't last long however, because in 1767 Charles Townshend replaced Grenville and set forth his Townshend Acts which taxed all the items frequently imported from England such as glass. The colonists responded with the nonimportation agreement and begun to boycott all British goods, which resulted in a spike in American economy. Another result of the Townshend Acts was the Boston Massacre, a small yet groundbreaking incident between a group of colonists and British military that resulted in the loss of five colonists' lives and the repealing of the Townshend Acts. In 1770 Lord North took over for Townshend and let the highly hated Quartering Acts expire. North was off to a good start keeping the fire for independence down in the colonies until he imposed the Tea Tax to keep the East India Company from going bankrupt. This act more or less forced the colonists to buy the East India Company's tea instead of smuggling Dutch tea as they had been doing for years. This drastically affected many colonists' incomes and sparked even more hatred. Famously this resulted in the Boston Tea party, an act of the Sons of Liberty against Britain and their harsh taxation without representation'. Many of the colonists had had enough and were through with Britain's rule and restrictions upon their civil liberties.
Following the French and Indian War, Britain knew they had to do something to protect their colonies from the Indians, as well as attempt to keep the Indians content. The result was the Proclamation of 1763 which kept the colonists out of lands west of the Appalachians. However, from the colonists' point of view, it seemed as if Britain was merely trying to cut back on their expansion. Parliamentary taxation only built upon that ill will. The colonists felt it was against the rights given to them as British American citizens to be taxed by Parliament when there wasn't a soul in Britain to honestly represent them and their needs, and with taxes such as the Stamp Act and Tea Tax, the unavoidable taxes represented British oppression. The Townshend Acts were a huge imposition upon civil liberties, especially once the custom collectors came calling with their hated writs of assistance' which authorized unrestricted searches. Often times the custom collectors stole items or as in the incident with John Hancock, seized whole ships and their cargo. These incidents showed the colonists how they were seen in the eyes of the British military and it did not stem positive feelings. In 1772, Parliament dropped another bomb when it gave the king, not the colonies, the job of paying the royal governors and judges their salaries. This in turn took away almost all say the colonies had in their official government. Following the Boston Tea Party, Lord North was adamant on punishing those who opposed British rule and he set forth the Coercive Acts which closed the Boston ports to trade, revoked the Massachusetts charter and closed down all town meetings. Going hand and hand with the Coercive Acts was the Quebec Act, which expanded the borders of Quebec and further insulted the colonies. The Coercive Acts, which the colonists named the Intolerable Acts and the Quebec Act pushed the colonies to cut off British trade and set up the first Continental Congress. In a final attempt to patch relations with England, the Congress adopted the Olive Branch Petition on July 8, 1775. The petition, written by John Dickinson, asked Parliament to repeal the Coercive Acts to restore good relations. However, King George III responded with the Prohibitory Act which set out to "bring the traitors to justice" and gave the British military the orders to seize American ships and cut off all American trade. The next spring, the Continental Congress wrote the Declaration of Independence, and on July 4, 1776, the United States of America was formed. They were instantly pitted against the skilled British military who had contributed to the ill will against Britain in the first place.
There never really was a chance for the British Army and the colonists to get along. The Americans felt as though they were capable one their own and needed less British influence. However, Britain did not feel the same way. When Britain set forth the Proclamation of 1763, General Jeffery Amherst and his army was in charge of guarding the border, alighting antagonism towards the British militia early on. The Quartering Act only intensified it when the British soldiers intruded upon the colonists' homes and had to be provided for. During the boycotts against the Townshend Acts, two regiments were sent to Boston to protect the custom officials because the mobs were beginning to tar and feather the men. In an event known as the Boston Massacre, a mob confronted Captain Thomas Preston and his men and a shotwhich side shot first is unknownrang out and five colonists were killed. Because no one could be found guilty for the first shot, the soldiers weren't even punished, enraging the colonists even further. Soon, the colonists grew violent against the British mercenaries. The Gaspèe, a British warship which sailed along the Rhode Island coast to enforce custom regulations, was know to also harass the colonists. When it ran ashore one night, the colonists burned it and then pretended to have forgotten the entire event when the British government came to investigate. Under the Coercive Acts, Lord North sent 4,000 soldiers to Boston, setting the colonist to British soldier ratio at 4:1. In response to the increase of soldiers and the Intolerable Acts' the colonists formed battalions of minutemen, colonists ready for battle within a minute's notice. On April 2, 1775 the minutemen showed what they were made of at the battle of Lexington and Concord. General Thomas Gage sent 1,000 soldiers under the command of Major John Pitcairn to seize the arsenal of weaponry in Concord. As they marched on toward Lexington, William Dawes and Paul Revere took their legendary ride and alerted the minutemen that "the British are coming!" When Pitcairn and his men reaching Lexington, Captain John Parker and his group of 70 minutemen delayed them barely fifteen minutes and Pitcairn continued his trek to Concord. His parade stopped their however when they faced 300 minutemen. After a British trooper fired "the shot heard round the world", Pitcairn turned to retreat after only five minutes of battle, but he soon found himself surround by over 3,000 minutemen. They barely made it back to Lexington to be rescued. The extreme victory over Britain plunged the colonieswhich were soon to be statesinto war.
Perhaps things may have ended differently if England had kept a tight leash on the colonies in the beginning, or given them representation in Parliament, but the world will never know. As soon as the colonies realized Britain responded to violence and boycotts, they knew they could have more. They longed to be independence and to be a unified nation separate from Britain. Though, in the beginning only a few had the drive and the willingness to go towards their goal, oppressive British actions helped support their claims. When Parliament began to tax, the colonists felt strongly that "taxation without representation" was against their civil liberties which they held so highly. Equally, they felt that the intrusion of the British military was not only unnecessary, but against their rights as well. In the end, it was Britain's own fault for letting the colonists know they had the power to free themselves from Europe's most powerful country.