What were the economic causes of the American Revolution?

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boomer-sooner | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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The British Empire was a world superpower during the early years of the American colonies.  The colonies were largely left to their own devices and seen by the Crown as an extension of its world power.  However, Britain also viewed the colonies as a rich investment and sought to protect the flow of capital.

The Navigation Acts (1651-1733) were a series of acts designed to protect England's financial interest in the colonial trade.  The acts restricted the import and export of goods, forcing all goods to flow through England.  Heavy taxes increased the costs of goods and commodities, placing a burden on colonists.  The last act, the Molasses Act of 1733, placed a heavy tax on sugar from the West Indies, essentially forcing colonists to buy it from Britain instead.

The end of the Seven Years War in 1763 saw France cede all of its territories between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River to England.  The English Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774 barred colonists from settling the area and voided any land claims.  The intent was to protect the fur trade.  The Crown also barred trade with the Indians without permission from the British government, usually involving a tax on the goods.

The Seven Years War was also costly for the British government.  Colonial taxes were lower than in England and the Crown decided to establish increased tariffs on colonial affairs to raise cash flow.  The Sugar Act (1764) reduced tariffs on non-British products in hopes of eliminating the black market for products.  The Stamp Act (1765) imposed requirements for stamps on many legal documents and newspapers.  This was a common tax in England.  The Quartering Act was not a tax, but required colonials to house and transport British troops.  The Townshend Act (1767) imposed taxes on a variety of goods to increase revenue and established a Board of Customs Commissioners. 

The American colonies responded to these increases with mostly peaceful protests and boycotts.  They were successful in gaining the repeal of several of the acts.  The Crown made a disastrous decision to enact the Tea Act (1773) which gave the struggling British East India Company the ability to ship tea directly to the colonies, threatening the profits of competitors.  After the Boston Tea Party, Parliament attempted to re-assert their ability to tax the colonies with The Boston Port Act, Massachusetts Government Act, Justice Act and Quartering Act.  These were labeled the Intolerable Acts by the colonists and viewed as the last straw by an increasingly overbearing British government.

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