Could the relationship between England and her American colonies have been saved?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a historical argument like this one, both sides tend to have value.  I suppose I fall on the side that the relationship between England and her American colonies could not have been saved.  There had been so much in way of stress in the relationship that it was almost a foregone conclusion that the relationship could be salvaged.  Revolution, or a forceful break, was the only possible option for the Colonists given everything else that had been endured.

In order to trace the fraying of this relationship, one has to go back to the French and Indian War.  A war between the French and English in which the Colonists gave support in all forms to the latter was seen as something that would engender good will from the mother nation.  However, the Colonists perceived insult when the English leaned on the Colonies to pay for the debt incurred as a result of the war.  At the same time, the Colonists felt that some level of representation in government and voice could have been present after the sacrifices made.  In return, they received greater restrictions on their economic and political rights.  Acts such as the Stamp Act, the Sugar Act, the Tea Act,  and the Nonimportation Agreements struck at the heart of the relationship between England and her colonies.  The Colonists perceived the British actions as direct attacks on their sovereignty.  Events such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the Intolerable Acts were direct acts of hostility in which both sides felt that the other could not be reached. The establishment of the First Continental Congress established that the Colonists could establish their own governing body. These acts reflected increasing distance between both, a gulf less likely to be bridged without complete submission to the other.  Mutual dialogue that had previously defined the relationship were now being replaced with unilateral declarations of hostility.  When the first shot is fired at the battle of Lexington and Concord, it reflects John Adams' idea that the seeds of revolution had been sown in the hearts of the Colonists prior to that first volley towards conflict.

A flip side to this would be to suggest that if the British had shown a bit of flexibility towards the Colonists, conflict could have been avoided.  If the Revolution was fought to make and keep money, then the British could have simply increased the share that the Colonists had and perhaps, revolution could have been averted.  However, I think that it is more compelling to argue that the reason why the relationship could not have been saved was because the nature of the relationship had changed between both.  A vibrant entity that had once been rather inclusive became more dictatorial in nature:  "Prior to the Stamp Act crisis British authority, rarely asserted, rested on ties of loyalty, affection and tradition, not force."  The establishment of compulsory force went very far to ensure that could be little to alter the course of events, one that reflected how the relationship between England and her colonies could not be salvaged.

parama9000 | Student

As with any other colonies established under the British Empire, we see that their "colonial relationship" isn't really saved. In Singapore for example, the British established policies that weren't fair to the people and only made a response/improvement only when it affected their economy. Similarly, only when the British started reducing its losses after the French-Indian War, did the conflict between the American colonies and Britain start.

robyn-bird96 | Student

I believe that the relationship between England and the colonies could not have been saved mainly on the basis of their relationship.  England had always practiced a policy of self-rule with their colonies, which the Americans had taken advantage of and have established their own form of self government.  The idea behind this relationship was, as long as the Americans provided materials and revenue to the British, then the British would leave the Americans alone.

However, after the French and Indian War, the British had to play a much larger role in their American colonies.  The major issue that developed is what we consider "Taxation without Representation," with extra emphasis on representation.  The British developed a huge war debt because of the French and Indian War, as because the Americans reaped the benefits of the war, the British believed that it was fair for the Americans to contribute to paying off the war debts.  However, the British forgot to consult the Americans, and began establishing different acts to gather tax revenue - The Stamp Act, The Sugar Act, The Tea Act, etc.  The British government had promised within their own Bill of Rights to gain permission from Parliament (the people) before establishing taxes.  The Americans had considered themselves people of the British Empire, and likewise, they deserved that right as well.

The British also wanted to keep the peace between the Indians and the Americans, so they restricted the Americans from expanding into the newly conquered territory.  This angered the Americans as well, because this was the land that they had fought for and won.  

Why it ended up escalating, was because the British continued to ignore the Americans, despite the Americans peaceful attempts to protest (such as the letters written to the king), to which the Americans rebelled against (Boston Tea Party, for example), which led to stricter British control (Intolerable Acts, Quartering Acts).  It was an escalation on both sides, as more colonists began to realize that they could establish their own government after their Continental Congresses, while the British were trying to keep their colonists under their control.  

Due to the different mindsets of the Americans and the British, I believe that a reconciliation would not have happened.

rachellopez | Student

I feel like the relationship between the colonies and England could not have been saved. A lot of people who fled to America left because they wanted new opportunities and a better life. While still under control of England they couldn't really experience true freedom and independence. England restricted what the colonists could do by giving them a lot of taxes, restrictions on where they could settle, and making colonists pay the debt caused by England's war. Really their only way to get their full freedom was to break away from England and fight for their rights. Maybe if England had allowed the colonists more freedoms they could have fixed things, but in the end the colonies would have wanted to do things for themselves anyway.