The Grievances of the Colonists

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Why did the colonists rebel against England?

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In terms of the Revolutionary War, the ultimate expression of colonial rebellion, there were several reasons why it was waged.

Great Britain had defended the American colonies during the French and Indian War, and it wanted to be repaid for that defense because it effectively doubled the national debt for...

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In terms of the Revolutionary War, the ultimate expression of colonial rebellion, there were several reasons why it was waged.

Great Britain had defended the American colonies during the French and Indian War, and it wanted to be repaid for that defense because it effectively doubled the national debt for Britain. Moreover, the colonies had become very adept at smuggling, and so taxes and tariffs that should have gone to Britain went unpaid. Many in the American colonies wanted the freedom to transact business domestically and internationally without the burden of taxes and tariffs.

Many Americans not only wanted unrestrained trade with countries that were enemies of Great Britain but they also resented having to both help foot the bills for Britain's many wars with other nations. The quartering of British troops in American homes was also highly unpopular, as was forced military service on behalf of the crown.

The American colonies were not represented in Parliament. This angered many in the colonies who felt that they should have a voice in policy-making since many were paying increasingly onerous taxes, such as those levied by the Stamp and Townshend Acts. Interference in local legislatures in the colonies was also resented.

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The colonists had numerous complaints about the governance they were subjected to. The colonists wanted to expand their territories past the Appalachian Mountains, which they were restricted from doing by the English government. The English had good reason to prevent this expansion, as there were contested claims of ownership over that land, and expanding into it raised the real possibility of war with France. The colonists eventually did start to claim land west of the Appalachian Mountains, which was one of the precipitating events of the French and Indian War. This war ended up being expensive for England, and new taxes were levied on colonial imports as a way to recoup some of the money spent during the war.

These new taxes were opposed by colonists because they raised the price of goods that were used relatively frequently. The colonists also complained because of the monopoly of the East India Company with regard to the trade in some goods, which had forced colonists to sell or buy goods at prices that they believed were unfair. There were also complaints from some colonists about being forced to house troops at their own expense (which was the impetus for the 3rd Amendment).

Ultimately though, not all colonists wanted to rebel. Approximately 20% of the colonists were Loyalists, while the majority of the colonists remained neutral. The population of patriots was likely between 25% and 30%, but they obtained significant help from France, which allowed them to succeed.

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The colonists rebelled against England for several reasons. The colonists were upset with the tax laws that were passed. The colonists believed they should have a say about any tax law that would affect them. This is a basic right English citizens have. However, the colonists had no representatives in Parliament who could speak about or vote on proposed taxes. Thus, they resented taxes that came with the Stamp Act or Townshend Acts.

The colonists also believed the British were restricting their freedom. When the Proclamation of 1763 was passed, the colonists were not allowed to move west of the Appalachian Mountains. The colonists wanted to move to this area where they would be able to get land. Land ownership was very important to the colonists. Thus, they opposed this law. They also opposed the Quartering Act that required them to provide places for soldiers, who were enforcing this law, to live.

The colonists were concerned about the violence that occurred with the Boston Massacre and the harsh response by the British to the Boston Tea Party. When fighting occurred at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, many colonists felt going to war was the only option to resolve the differences that existed between the colonists and the British.

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