American Revolution

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What factors led to the growth of American nationalism in the 1760s?

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One of the factors that increased nationalism in the 1760s was the French and Indian War, or Seven Years' War (1756-1763). During the war, colonists were connected through fighting for the British, and they were also increasingly connected through better roads. The harsh conduct of British officers also drew colonists together in protest.

The British reinforcement of the Navigation Acts, including the Sugar Act, Stamp Acts, and other acts, also promoted American nationalism. After the Seven Years' War, British debt resulted in the crown levying a series of taxes in order to raise money. Colonists resented being taxed for items such as sugar and stamps (which were affixed to many colonial documents). The Stamp Act in particular was controversial; it was a tax placed on documents produced internally in the colonies, while earlier taxes had always been on items imported into the colonies from Great Britain. During the 1760s, colonists developed means of communication such as newspapers that further connected them and promoted a sense of nationalism. 

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During the 1760s and into the 1770s, more Parliamentary oversight into colonial affairs threatened the salutary neglect system that had served the colonists for so long for so well.  During the French-Indian War, colonial militias felt underappreciated by British regular officers who did not use American tactical strategies even though the Americans had been fighting wars with the natives for years.  Americans wanted to expand west in search of more ground for their growing families, since the American dream back then meant having a farm.  The British established the Proclamation Line of 1763 which was supposed to keep the colonists east of the Appalachian Mountains.  During the French-Indian War, the British saw that the colonists were not following British taxation and navigation laws, so they put on more stringent laws in order to keep the colonists under control and to replenish the Crown's coffers.  The colonists started to see themselves as more "American" than "British" and saw Parliament as a separate power that meant to ruin the Americans.  American boycotts of British goods also encouraged American nationalism as it was considered patriotic to avoid items made in Britain.  American regionalism also led to American slang and speaking patterns--these regional accents could not be found in Britain and this also led to American nationalism.  

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The factors that led to the growth of American nationalism during this time are tied mainly to the French and Indian War.  There were three main factors that came out of the war and led to more nationalism.  They included:

  • The reaction of colonial men to what they saw of the British army.  While colonists served with the British in this war, they came to think badly of the British.  For example, many of them were alarmed by the brutal way in which officers treated their men.  This (along with greater contact with fellow colonists from other colonies) made them feel more American and less British.
  • More regulation by the British government.  After the war, the British government tried to exert more control over the colonies.  This can be seen in such things as the Proclamation of 1763.  This led to resentment and more of a feeling of nationalism.
  • Taxes.  This is perhaps the most famous of the factors.  When the British imposed taxes to help pay for the war, Americans were angered.  They felt that only they should have the ability to levy taxes on themselves.  This, too, led to a sense that the colonies were separate from Britain.

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