Economic Reasons for American Independence

Economic Reasons for American Independence

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Economic Reasons for American Independence

The thirteen colonies that became the USA were originally colonies of Great Britain. By the time the American Revolution took place, the citizens of these colonies were beginning to get tired of the British rule. Rebellion and discontent were rampant. For those people who see the change in the American government and society a real Revolution, the Revolution is essentially an economic one.

The main reason the colonies started rebelling against 'mother England' was the taxation issue. The colonies debated England's legal power to tax them and, furthermore, did not wish to be taxed without representation. This was one of the main causes of the Revolutionary War.

Eleven years before America had declared it's independence there was 1,450,000 white and 400,000 Negro subjects of the crown. The colonies extended from the Atlantic to the Appalachian barrier (Brinton, 1965). The life in these thirteen colonies was primarily rural, the economy based on agriculture, most were descended from the English, and politics were only the concern of land owners.

Throughout these prosperous colonies, only a small portion of the population were content with their lives as subjects of George III. Most found it hard to be continually enthusiastic for their King sitting on his thrown, thousands of miles away. Despite this there were few signs of the upcoming revolution. The occasional call for democracy and liberty were written off by loyalists. Among the upper class feelings of loyalty to the crown were strong and eloquently expressed.

The attitudes of the common people mirrored their counterparts in England. They had a combination of indifference and obeisance.

The first colonists had brought over both good and evil of their mother country in the seventeenth century. The good had been toughened and in several instances improved; much of the bad had faded away under the tough conditions of life. The American was a special brand of Englishman: he was more American than the English.

In the beginning, the economic conditions were a cause in the advance of liberty, the wages in the colonies were generally higher and the working conditions were better than in England. The reason for this altogether joyous condition was a shortage of labor caused by the mass amount of land being settled. The people of the seaboard lost many of their community in the migration to the west.

The immigrants brought with them ways of life that supported the colonies.

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The Scotch-Irish were typical frontiersmen, the Germans were the typical farmer, and the English were well educated. The diversity the immigrant¹s possed helped to democratize the political institutions that had been brought over from England.

Nearly all of the immigrants to the colonies came from the middle and lower classes.
Even the aristocratic families of New York and Virginia had humble origins. Europe had sent over thousands of substantial, intelligent, propertied men and women. Yet most could not even pay for their own voyage, and gentlemen immigrants only numbered a few.

Eventually, for the colonies the happiness wore away and the desolate frontier became not only an area but a state of mind. Colonies were poorly planned and settled on malaria infested swamps. Almost half of the colonists¹ died of disease, starvation, exhaustion, and death by rival, hostel Indians. The hardships of the wilderness frustrated many attempts at a fruitful life for the colonies, but the frontier also produced some of the raw materials of American democracy - self reliance, social fluidity, simplicity, equality, dislike of privilege, optimism, and devotion to liberty.

Meanwhile, the English government was conducting colonial affairs upon the assumptions that: the colonies were dependents of England, since their interests were subordinate to those of England, the welfare of the latter was to be the concern of an agency charged with governing them. The colonists were to serve their mother country as a source of wealth. The English government had acted upon this premise throughout the colonial period, which consisted of confusion in the beginning, domestic troubles in the middle, and salutary neglect in the end.

The colonists realized that three thousand miles of ocean lay in between England and the American colonies, thus leading naturally into an attitude of provincialism that was well suited for the conditions of their life in America, but was corrosive to the empire of England. This fact of geography and the remoteness of the colonies, squared the difference between imperial purpose and colonial aspiration. For example, the English were lax in the enforcing of the Navigation Acts and the colonials disobeyed them (Olsen, K). This was one instance of the extent to which three thousand miles of ocean could water down a policy of strict control.

Soon the colonists were being overtaxed without adequate representation. The people were angered and now began to feel the forces of revolt that had silently growled for many years.

The Revenue Act of 1764 made the constitutional issue of whether or not the King had the right to tax the thirteen colonies an issue, and this eventually "²became an entering wedge in the great dispute that was finally to wrest the American colonies from England" (Olsen, K ). It was the phrase 'taxation without representation' that was to draw many to the cause of the American patriots against the mother country.

The reaction against taxation was often violent and the most powerful and articulate groups in the population rose against the taxation . Resolutions denouncing taxation without representation as a threat to colonial liberties" were passed . In October of 1765, colonial representatives met on their own initiative for the first time and decided to mobilize colonial opinion against parliamentary interference in American affairs. From this point on, events began to reach the point of no return for
the colonies.

However, not everyone favored the revolutionary movement; this was especially true in areas of mixed ethnic cultures and in those that were untouched by the war. The citizens of the middle colonies were especially unenthusiastic about the revolution (Ward, H).
Among those who did support a change in the government structure, not everyone who joined the movement favored violence. Quakers and members of other religions, as well as many merchants from the middle colonies, and some discontented farmers and frontiersmen from southern colonies opposed the use of violence, and instead favored " discussion and compromise as the proper solution" (Olsen, K). The patriots were able to gain a great deal of support for a violent Revolution from the less well-to-do, from many of the professional class, especially lawyers, some of the great planters and a number of merchants. Support for the Revolution increased when it became clear that Kin George III had no intention of making concessions(Olsen,K). By the Fall of 1774, the American people had in place the mechanisms of revolutionary organization on the local and colony level.

There is no doubt that the colonies brought about an American experience that was a real Revolution. It was a struggle to progress from dependent colonies to independent states, from monarchy to republic, from membership in an extended empire in which the several members were connected only through the center to participation in a singly federal nation.The struggles were enormous and the death toll even higher, but after the foundation was laid and the Revolution was started, a new country was born...And it has succeeded.


Brinton, Crane. The Anatomy of Revolution. Vintage Books: New York, 1965.

Olsen, Keith W., et al. An Outline of American History. As reprinted on the Internet

Ward, Harry M. The American Revolution: Nationhood Achieved, 1763-1788. St. Martin's Press, Inc.: New York, 1995. "Who Really Leads a Revolution?" Reprinted from Women of Greater Atlanta, July 1995, [ONLINE]
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