Did England make a mistake by not controlling their early colonies in North America?

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kquinn-stearns eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many historians would argue yes to this question.  If England had not ignored her colonies, the feelings of resentment and anger that led to the American Revolution may not have existed to the extreme that they did. Between the years of 1607-1763, the English monarchy engaged in what is considered an unofficial policy of salutary neglect.  Essentially, the colonies were ignored by the crown.  At the time, the colonies were not benefitting the crown in many ways.  They were expensive to charter and limited economic successes had been achieved in the early 1600s.  As a result, very little interaction occured between the two parties during this time period.  As a result of this "neglect," the colonies began to develop their own identities and have a feel for independence from the crown.  Individual colonial governments were established and each colony began to run itself as the local colonists wanted.  It was not until the end of the French and Indian War (or Seven Year's War as it was called in Europe) that the monarchy began to pay attention to its colonies.  Part of this had to do with increasing taxes to pay debts from the war the England had accrued.  The colonists had fought along side the crown during the war to protect their colonies from enemy French and Indian tribes in the area, and were resentful that their taxes were raised as a result of a victory.  (Even though taxes were raised, though, the colonists still only paid a fraction of what English citizens paid overseas.  It was less about the amount though, and more about the lack of representation when decisions were made about raising taxes.  This is about the time that "no taxation without representation" began as a well known phrase in the colonies).  Finally, the Proclamation of 1763 was established, which prohibited the colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains.  This, along with resentment about treatment for fighting in the war, and raised taxes, began strong feelings of hostility amongst the colonists and set the stage for the eventual revolution.  If England had not ignored her colonies from 1607-1763, these feelings may have not been so strong and may not have led to such an event as the American Revolution.  So, in essence, if England had wanted to keep her colonies, then they should not have been ignored for so many years to begin with.