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Washington spent his years as a planter trying to gain economic independence from the London merchants who bought his crops. Like many colonists, he grew frustrated at what he and many other colonists saw as unfair laws. In the 1760s, the colonists repeatedly clashed with the British Parliament over questions of taxation and trade. The British government had racked up a massive debt during the French and Indian War. Since American colonists had benefited from the British victory in this war, Parliament believed it only fair that Americans help pay for the effort. But Americans have never liked paying taxes and have never shied from using the language of rights to justify not paying. Parliament, for its part, never took American grievances very seriously. In the space of one decade, the 1760s, these grievances grew from grumbles about taxes to a strong desire for independence.
A series of Parliamentary laws goaded the colonists to increasing levels of anger: the 1765 Stamp Act led to boycotts and protests; the Townshend Acts of 1767 resulted in a movement to stop importing British goods. Washington was a leader in this movement. In retaliation, British troops occupied Boston. An unfortunate skirmish between colonists and British troops, portrayed by Samuel Adams and other rebels as the Boston Massacre, brought further opposition to heavy-handed British policies. Continuing disobedience in Boston led Parliament to pass the Coercive Acts, which completely closed Boston harbor in an attempt to cut off the Boston rebels from the rest of the colonies. On April 19, 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord broke out when British troops tried to seize a rebel stockpile of weapons. This began the Revolutionary War.
Washington watched these developments with fear. He would lose a lot if a rebellion took place. In 1758 the idea of rebelling against Britain was unthinkable to him, as it was to most colonists. Yet he was also angry at Britain for having been denied a commission in the British Army and humiliated by the army's lack of respect for the Virginia militia. Like many colonists, he was hurt financially by the effects of the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts. He believed, like many of his contemporaries, that he and his fellow Americans were being taxed without representation.
Washington vigorously joined the non-importation movement and presided over a meeting in 1774 at the Fairfax County Court House. The delegates affirmed Americans' right to govern themselves and threatened to rebel if Britain would not respect this right.
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