1305 words (3.7 double-spaced pages)
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Evaluate the relative importance of two of the following as factors prompting Americans to rebel in 1776.
The legacy of colonial religious and political ideas
British military measures
Restrictions of Civil Liberty
Some say that the Revolution was destined to happen ever since Settlers set foot on this continent, others argue that it would not have happened if it weren't for a set of issues that finally drove the colonists to revolt. Ultimately, Britain lost control in 1765 when they gave in to the Stamp Act Congress’s boycotts against parliamentary taxation and gave them the idea that they had the power to run a country. To a lesser degree, Salutary Neglect led to the conception of a legacy of colonial religious and political ideals which set in motion an eminent conflict. During this period, England “forgot” about the colonies and gave them colonists a taste of independence and suspicions of individual political theories. Through Parliament's ruthless taxation without representation and a near opposite religious and political mindset, Britain and the colonists were heaved into a revolutionary war.
The most important issue prompting Americans to rebel in 1776 is clearly parliamentary taxation. 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. He was determined to pay off the debt by brutally 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 the first whiff of 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. 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. They had their first taste of victory, and England would learn to hate how addicting it could be. Their elation didn't last long however, when 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 fury and more importantly the non-importation agreement. They had begun to reject all British goods, which resulted in an accommodating spike in American economy. Unfortunately, not everything these acts brought was positive. 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'. For many of the colonists, this was the last straw and they were through with Britain's rule and restrictions upon their lives.
Yet another factor leading to the revolution, though possibly of lesser importance, was the legacy of colonial religious and political ideas. Regarding religion, colonists were outcasts from the mainland from the beginning. This is because the majority of them were religious pariahs eager to escape oppressions from the Puritan Church. However, by the time of the revolution, the colonies were not only separated by belief from Great Britain, but they were also religiously fragmented. The Anglican Church, the official church of some colonies often times served as a “prop” for kingly authority. This angered Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists, Catholics, and virtually everyone else who composed the new world’s variety of faiths. The Anglican Church did not serve the needs of the people and it didn't hold up its promises to the people, holding true to English authority. Also, the Anglican Church had a notorious reputation for clergymen with loose morals and worldly lifestyles. The British tried to impose the Anglican Church on additional colonies to everyone's displeasure. Finally, when the Quebec Act came along granting large territories to the defeated French Catholics, the colonists feared that protestant religion would suffer and they were pushed to their religious stress limits. On the political side of things, colonists in North America had developed a political outlook far different from Great Britain’s. Prime Minister Robert Walpole stated that "if no restrictions were placed on the colonies, they would flourish," and that they did during the period of time called Salutary Neglect. Salutary Neglect was a time in which Britain did nothing to guide its developing colonies and became nearly as important as the Stamp Act Congress when it comes to factors that led to the American Revolutionary War. When the imperial authority did not assert the power that it had to control America, the colonists were left to govern themselves. These essentially sovereign colonies soon became accustomed to the idea of self-control and democracy. The effects of such prolonged isolation eventually resulted in the emergence of a collective identity that considered itself separate from Great Britain. The turning point from salutary neglect to an attempt to enforce English policies was during The French and Indian War. Great Britain was fighting France for imperial control of the known world and was losing very badly until Secretary of State William Pitt the Elder took charge. To help the war effort, Pitt tried to seize supplies from the colonies, force colonial men into service, and take control of military issues. This along with the latter Quartering Acts was an unpleasant reminder that they were not independent, and it was more than the colonists could stand.
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 independent 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 political ideals which they held so highly. 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.
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"Causes Of American Rebellion in 1776." 123HelpMe.com. 21 May 2013