Ideas of self-government took root in the colonies during the 1600s and came to a head between 1754 and 1776. In 1619, the first representative assembly, the House of Burgesses, was formed in Virginia. In 1620, the Plymouth Colony, the first colony in New England, advocated self-government with the Mayflower Compact. Such developments straddled the line between self-government and loyalty to the English. England seemed to give the colonies quite a bit of independence. They let them pass laws and determine their taxes.
It’s possible to argue that England’s hands-off approach conferred a sense of autonomy among the colonies. Once Britain began interfering more with the colonies, the colonists reacted with force and indignation. To help pay for an expensive war against the French and the Indigenous peoples, Britain passed the Stamp Act in 1765. For the first time, England tried to tax transactions in the colonies. The act caused riots and boycotts. The violence and uproar led England to repeal the legislation within about a year.
In 1767, England tried to impose a tax on items that colonists imported from Britain. This set of laws and taxes were called the Townshend Acts. Similar to the Stamp Act, the colonists, keen on self-rule, reacted with violence and boycotts.
During the first month of 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense. His political treatise excoriated the king and the British government in general. “There is something absurd in supposing a Continent to be perpetually governed by an island,” wrote Paine. One person who encouraged Paine to write his pamphlet was Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father. The link between Paine and Franklin indicates that ideas about self-rule had an extensive impact on leading colonists.