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Why did the American colonists revolt against Britain?
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The American colonists rebelled because they felt that they were not being treated fairly by the English government. As the colonies grew bigger and more prosperous, they came to feel that they should have more of the rights granted to people in England. Most importantly, they felt that they should be free from taxation unless they were also represented in the legislature that voted for the tax.
The colonists had been content to be colonies when British rule was "light" and when the colonies were small. But as the colonies grew, and as the government in England became more controlling after the French and Indian War, the colonists started to rebel.
Posted by pohnpei397 on June 21, 2012 at 1:22 PM (Answer #1)
The primary reason the colonists revolted was that they believed--correctly--that they had been denied their rights as Englishmen. There is some argument that after the French and Indian War, Americans developed a feeling of "separateness" from the Empire, that is that they were more American and less English. This feeling of separateness accelerated AFTER fighting broke out; however it was not the reason Americans rebelled in the first place.
After the French and Indian War, Britain took the unusual step of taxing the colonists for the cost of the war. Colonists had been taxed before, but those taxes had been levied by Colonial legislatures. They also had been taxed by Britain, but these taxes had been for purposes of regulation, rather than revenue. Most of the latter were simply evaded or ignored by the colonists as they smuggled goods to and from nations other than Great Britain. However, the attempt to tax the colonies (originally by the Stamp Act) violated one of the most sacred principles of the rights of Englishmen--the right to only be taxed by their duly elected representatives. Several English diplomats attempted to explain this away by arguing such things as "virtual representation," (Parliament represented the entire Empire) but this argument gained no ground. "Taxation without representation" soon became fighting words. Tensions soon ran high. James Dickinson expressed the feeling of the colonists eloquently:
Here then, my dear country men ROUSE yourselves, and behold the ruin hanging over your heads. If you ONCE admit, that Great-Britain may lay duties upon her exportations to us, for the purpose of levying money on us only, she then will have nothing to do, but to lay those duties on the articles which she prohibits us to manufacture- and the tragedy of American liberty is finished. . . . If Great-Britain can order us to come to her for necessaries we want, and can order us to pay what taxes she pleases before we take them away, or when we land them here, we are as abject slaves as France and Poland can shew in wooden shoes, and with uncombed hair.
Dickinson may have overstated the cause; in fact even after fighting broke out, the colonists offered to return to the British fold provided they were guaranteed their rights as Englishmen. They did this by means of the Olive Branch Petition:
The apprehension of being degraded into a state of servitude from the preeminent rank of English freemen, while our minds retain the strongest love of liberty, and clearly foresee the miseries preparing for us and our posterity, excites emotions in our breasts which, though we can not describe, we should not wish to conceal. Feeling as men, and thinking as subjects, in the manner we do, silence would be disloyalty. By giving this faithful information, we do all in our power to promote the great objects of your royal cares, the tranquility of your government and the welfare of your people.
We ask but for peace, liberty, and safety. We wish not a diminution of the prerogative, nor do we solicit the grant of any newright in our favor. Your royal authority over us, and our connection with Great Britain, we shall always carefully and zealously endeavor to support and maintain.
By the time the Petition was sent to George III, feelings on both sides of the Atlantic had reached a fever pitch; at that point, there was no reasoning to be had, and the matter could only be settled with armed conflict.
Posted by larrygates on June 21, 2012 at 3:34 PM (Answer #2)
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