The Grievances of the Colonists

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Explain three ways the British changed their imperial policy in order to reassert control over its colonies during the eighteenth century.

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British attempts to reform imperial policy became urgent following the Seven Years War (the French and Indian War in the colonies.) The main reason for this was the expense of the war, which ended in victory for the British, but at great financial cost. In the colonies, the British also...

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British attempts to reform imperial policy became urgent following the Seven Years War (the French and Indian War in the colonies.) The main reason for this was the expense of the war, which ended in victory for the British, but at great financial cost. In the colonies, the British also anticipated that governing the new territories (essentially everything east of the Mississippi River) would be expensive. To avert part of this expense, King George issued the Proclamation of 1763, which forbade settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. This, it was believed, would avert the expense of maintaining garrisons in forts west of the Appalachians, necessary to protect settlers from attacks from Native peoples.

Another change in British imperial policy was related to trade. The British had long pursued a policy described as "salutary neglect," meaning they did not enforce the Navigation Acts, a series of laws intended to regulate trade with the colonies. Predictably, this led to the rise of smuggling in the colonies, particularly in New England and New York. The Sugar Act, passed in 1764, was an attempt to enforce restrictions on smuggling. It actually lowered import duties on molasses and sugar, but stiffened penalties for smuggling. It marked a major departure from previous British policy, as did later measures like the Townshend Duties.

Finally, the British attempted, in 1765, to raise money from the colonies with the most infamous of all legislation—the Stamp Act. Essentially, this was a tax on official documents, ranging from licenses to newspapers. It was unprecedented in that it was a direct tax from Parliament on the colonies. Previously, Parliament had attempted to raise money through tariffs. The Proclamation of 1763 and new strictures on trade had met with fierce colonial protests, but the Stamp Act particularly outraged colonists. British attempts to reform colonial policy led to a crisis that brought about the American Revolution.

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