The disagreement between America and Britain was over Britain's perceived denial of the "rights of Englishmen" to the Americans, particularly the right to be taxed by their duly elected representatives. The colonies had exercised a substantial degree of self government. Colonial legislatures imposed local laws (subject to approval by the...
The disagreement between America and Britain was over Britain's perceived denial of the "rights of Englishmen" to the Americans, particularly the right to be taxed by their duly elected representatives. The colonies had exercised a substantial degree of self government. Colonial legislatures imposed local laws (subject to approval by the royal governor) and enacted laws affecting the local populace. Even the royal governor was not wholly beyond the control of the colonial legislatures, as they paid his salary. If he were not cooperative, they wouldn't authorize his salary, so a workable arrangement usually was had. So self-government was not the issue.
The problem arose immediately after the Treaty of Paris of 1763 when Parliament decided that the colonies should be responsible for part of the cost of the war. The war had been fought in the Americas and by British soldiers who were paid by British funds; it only seemed proper to George Grenville, then Prime Minister, that the colonies should pay some part of the cost of the war. The tax imposed on the colonies was the famous Stamp Tax, which was at a much less rate than the British population had been asked to pay, and in fact never raised any revenue--opposition to the tax was so great that Parliament then withdrew it. The colonists argued that as the King's good and loyal servants (which they considered themselves) they were entitled to be taxed only by their duly elected representatives, namely the colonial legislatures. Parliament countered with a number of responses, including the idea of "virtual representation; that is that the members of Parliament represented the entire British Empire including the colonies so they had "virtual representation" in Parliament. Needless to say, the colonists did not buy this idea.
Even after fighting broke out, the colonists offered to mend fences if only they were guaranteed their rights as Englishmen, as stated in the Olive Branch Petition. George III refused to even read the petition; and the war continued to its ultimate conclusion.
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 new right 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.