The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during 1763-1775.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 7.
Since the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, American colonists had been forced to bear the financial burden of war and suddenly, Britain cared what they were doing. Many were hesitant to break from Britain, but once the Declaration was signed, it was time to kick some ass.
Since the beginning, the New World had nurtured new ideas about society and government. In Europe, no one would dare challenge someone with a high social class. But in America, it was commonplace. By the mid-1750s, republicanism had taken off [See Chapter 8]. It was purely against all monarchies. The Whigs back in Britain were always looking out for the people– speaking out against corruption, which was rampant among the King’s appointed governors and bishops.
With mercantilism firmly in place, the colonies were doing most of the dirty work for Great Britain. The idea of mercantilism holds that for a country to be well-off, they must export more than they import and amass a fortune of gold. The Navigation Law of 1650 made it illegal for the colonies to trade with anybody but Britain, who would act a middle man and sell American goods like tobacco and sugar to other countries. Everything other countries tried to sell to the colonies had to go through Britain, who put a heavy tariff on it and then sold it to the colonies at crazy high prices.
Currency shortage was also a big deal in America. The colonists had bought more from Britain than they sold to them and no one had any coinage left. Paper money became popular when all the gold and silver coins had disappeared. Britain was quick to veto any colonial law that violated the mercantilism system.
Though the mercantilism system seems harsh, it was loosely enforced until 1763 (the end of the FIW) and the colonies benefited greatly from it. New England shipbuilders enjoyed great success and Virginian tobacco farmers had a monopoly on the market. Even so, many Americans felt that the Brits were messing with their groove and never let their true colors shine.
To pay off their war debt, the British PM Grenville decided it was time to end their salutatory neglect with the Americans. The Navigation Laws were enforced and the Sugar Act of 1764, which raised the price of sugar extremely high, was enacted. More agitation followed with the Quartering Act of 1765, which stated the Redcoats were to be welcomed into any home and fed a warm meal. The Stamp Act of 1765 would tax everything from trade items to newspapers and marriage licenses.
Grenville’s new policies also cut into liberties. Offenders were assumed guilty and would be tried in admiralty courts without juries. “No taxation without representation.” was the common protesting chant. There were no Americans seated in Parliament, which made all the laws, and hence, they had no right to tax the colonists. Grenville played it off by stating they had ‘virtual representation’ in Parliament.
The colonists didn’t even want to be represented for fear it might raise taxes even higher. 27 delegates, known as the Stamp Act Congress, met in NYC to talk about the oppressive Brits. Though the Congress didn’t do a thing, it was first domino in a large string. Many colonists boycotted British goods and signed petitions. The Sons and Daughters of Liberty were two important groups that would tar and feather anyone who didn’t boycott the goods. Rioters destroyed houses of unpopular officials and wreaked havoc everywhere. The goal was to show how bad the Brits were– mission accomplished!
The Stamp Act was finally repealed in 1766, but the American merchants suffered big time. Laborers back in Britain gladly paid their stamp taxes for years and couldn’t understand the colonists. There was premature celebration in the colonies before Parliament swiftly passed the Declaratory Act, which gave Britain supreme power over the colonies.
The new PM Townshed passed Acts in his name in 1767, which lightened the tax burden, though many colonists didn’t take notice. For the first time, tea was taxed and by 1768, massive numbers of Redcoats occupied the East Coast. The Boston Massacre occurred on March 5, 1770, in which eleven colonists were wounded or killed by the Redcoats. John Adams defended the Brits in court.
The Townshed Acts weren’t making all that much money, so George III repealed them but kept alive the tea tax. The Navigation Laws were also enforced tenfold. Sam Adams formed a committee of correspondence in Boston in 1772 and many others followed in surrounding cities. Their purpose was to inspire resistance against Britain. Every colony soon had a central committee and exchanged ideas were other regions. This was the start of Congress.
By 1773, people were learning to live with the tea tax and the boycott was weakening. Across the seas, the East India Company was going bankrupt. If it went under, London would lose loads of cash. To boost profits, London gave the EIC a monopoly on America’s tea. The tea was now cheaper, but many Americans scoffed at this because the tax still accompanied it. Protesters never allowed any East Indian tea to set foot in America. In Boston, the governor Thomas Hutchinson (Anne’s great-great-grandson) disliked the tea tax but didn’t think the colonists should break the law and let the Company unload their shipments.
On December 16th, 1773 ,the Boston Tea Party took place. Imagine 100 hot guys with abs and pecs and everything loosely dressed as Indians throwing loads of tea into the Atlantic Ocean under the cloak of night. Hutchinson had been exposed as a loyalist and retreated to Britain. Meanwhile, though it would stop a rebellion, the Brits refused to grant home-rule to the colonists and instead passed the Intolerable Acts in early 1774.
The Acts closed down Boston Harbor until damages could be paid for, restricted town hall meetings, and gave government officials the choice of going to trial in Britain instead of in America for killing a citizen. The new Quartering Act gave Redcoats the right to lodge wherever they pleased for as long as they pleased. The Quebec Act also gave Canadians the right to practice Catholicism and retain traditions, like not having a trial by jury or a representative government.
Americans were alarmed by the Quebec Act and feared it would eventually come to America. The Continental Congress met in the summer of 1774 to discuss ways of getting around the Brits’ Intolerable Acts. George Washington, John Adams, and Patrick Henry were all there. John Adams played a major role, insisting that a revolution was the only way to go. They drew up the Declaration of Rights, which is self-explanatory, and created the Association, which was a complete boycott of all British goods. There was no talk of independence and they agreed to meet in May of the following year.
But before they could meet again, Parliament vetoed Congress’ petitions and in Lexington and Concord, a skirmish between Redcoats and minute-men left eight Americans and 70 Brits dead. The Brits had been sent there to steal gunpowder and arrest Sam Adams and Hancock. They were sent home empty-handed.
It would be a tough war. The Brits had a well-trained army and the money to hire 30,000 German Hessian soldiers to fight with them. They also had the help of loyalists and American Indians. But across the pond, Ireland was also rebelling and troops had to be sent there as well. Many British Whigs cheered the fight for American independence, believing that if George III won in America, he and his Tory party would become tyrannical.
The British treated their soldiers horribly. There was little food and the officers were second-rate. In addition, they would fighting 3,000 miles away from home in a place where there was no capitol to capture to end the war and every small city they did capture was a waste.
The Americans had great leaders like George Washington, who was a ‘giant among men’. Keep your pants on, textbooks authors, we don’t need to know how well-endowed he was. Ben Franklin recruited foreign aid and got unemployed European officers, who would gladly take a paycheck, to join our side. Among them was Lafayette, a badass from France.
America had everything going for itself. It was self-sustaining and their ideology was strong. But they were very disorganized– Congress was just a debating ring and there was no Constitution under the Articles of Confederation came about. Inflation also hit the colonies hard and prices were out of control. There was also the lack of military supplies, which would lead to an alliance with France, and a lack of manufactured goods such as shoes and pants.
The militia men had to be whipped into shape and foreigners like Baron von Steuben did just that. Black guys also joined in on the fight and became heroes. The Brits promised freedom to any Virginian slave that joined their side. Slave patrols were tightened and few slaves escaped. The Brits actually came through on this promise and after the war, shuttled 14,000 former slaves off to Canada or Jamaica.
American war profiteers sold lots of things to the occupying Redcoats, making massive profit while their own young men starved and froze to death. Very few Americans rallied behind the army and most played the hen, only wanting the bread when it was ready to be eaten. In the end, a few brave men and women fought and lost their lives for countless scores of people.