The Grievances of the Colonists

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What were the causes of the American Revolution?

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With strong commitment and backing from Great Britain, the British colonies won the French and Indian War in 1763. This removed France from the borders of the thirteen original colonies and thus took away the threat of France conquering the North American seaboard. This victory, ironically, removed Great Britain's chief value to the colonists.

Because they no longer needed the British army (to repel another power near their borders), the American elite began to see the British control of the colonies as a problem. The British, naturally enough, wanted the Americans to help pay for a costly war that was fought, as far as the British were concerned, mostly for the benefit of the colonists. The colonists, however, deeply resented the extra taxes that the British started to impose.

The colonists also feared that taxes, such as those on tea or stamps, would set a precedent for more taxation. They resented as well British intrusions into American affairs, such as the refusal to allow the Americans to expand westward. Americans had enjoyed the earlier British policy of "salutary neglect," which largely allowed the colonists to run their own affairs and cast a blind eye on Americans breaking British tariff laws. Under this state of affairs, the colonial leadership had enjoyed independence in all but name.

It is not a coincidence that it took only twelve years after the end of the French and Indian War for the Americans to start seriously organizing and acting on the idea of independence.

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There were several causes of the American Revolution. One cause was the concern the colonists had that the British were trying to restrict their freedom of movement. After the French and Indian War ended, the British passed the Proclamation of 1763. This law prevented the colonists from moving to the land that Great Britain received from France which was located west of the Appalachian Mountains. The British were trying to protect the colonists from attacks by the Native Americans. The colonists wanted to move to this area so they could get and own this land. When the British required the colonists to provide housing for the British troops that were enforcing this unpopular law, the colonists weren’t happy. Some colonists refused to obey the Proclamation of 1763.

Another cause was the passage of tax laws by Parliament. As the colonies became more expensive to operate, the British passed new tax laws to help generate revenue. The Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts were examples of laws that were passed. The colonists objected to these laws because they didn’t have representatives in Parliament that could speak about and vote on the new tax laws. Since British citizens have elected representatives in Parliament who can vote on laws, the colonists felt their rights were being violated because they didn’t have elected representatives in Parliament.

As events turned more aggressive, our relationship with the British deteriorated. When five colonists were killed in an event known as the Boston Massacre, the colonists became more concerned about the actions of the British army. When Britain passed the Tea Act to give the British East India Company a monopoly on the trade of tea, the colonists responded with the Boston Tea Party. The colonists dumped chests filled with tea into Boston Harbor. The British responded with the Intolerable Acts. The Intolerable Acts were designed to punish the colonists, especially those in Massachusetts, for the Boston Tea Party. The colonists refused to obey these laws, and they formed their own militias.

When fighting occurred at Lexington and at Concord in April 1775, many colonists knew it was only a matter of time before the colonists would declare their independence. The Second Continental Congress eventually instructed a group of five members to begin writing the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The adopting of the Declaration of Independence was followed by the start of the Revolutionary War.

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What were the reasons for the revolts and rebellions that occurred in the American colonies?  

There were many factors that led American colonists to rebel against the British, but the French and Indian War (1756–1763)—or the Seven Years War for Europeans—is a good starting point.

American colonists believed they played their part well in the fight against the French and the Indians. So when the British Parliament, and King George III, began imposing new laws and taxes (Sugar Act, Currency Act, Quartering Act, Stamp Act) on the colonists, to pay for the war and to reduce British debt, the colonists felt betrayed and proceeded to try to reduce the effect of these laws. They generally succeeded in doing so. But the British didn't quit, and they began to impose even more laws on the colonists.

Acts of resistance, like the Boston Tea Party, were small but significant gestures meant to demonstrate to the British that the colonists were resolved not to be taxed to pay off British debt. Moreover, there were no colonial representatives in the British Parliament representing colonial views on anything. Hence, the colonial response to any new British tax was "No taxation without representation!"

But during this time, the people in the thirteen colonies were not united, and they really had no plan to become united. Nevertheless, the British imposed a new set of laws, the Intolerable Acts, which included the Boston Port Act, that punished the colonists for their continued resistance.

The colonists had had enough as well, and in 1774, twelve of the thirteen colonies sent representatives to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, PA. They had hoped to reverse the effects of the sanctions imposed by the Intolerable Acts. Among other things that came out of that one-and-a-half month long conference was the decision to boycott the purchase of all British goods.

It was in the following year, however, that the "Shot Heard Round the World" set off hostilities between the British and the American Colonists on April 19, 1775 that began the American Revolutionary War.

As you can see, there were many factors that impacted the American Revolution, but the fact that the colonists kept rebelling and kept responding to the laws imposed on them is what eventually led to the beginning of the war.

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What were the reasons for the revolts and rebellions that occurred in the American colonies?  

While it is somewhat popular to believe that the Thirteen Colonies were economically and politically unified, nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout the colonies, differing political and economic goals often led to conflict.  Even within each individual colony, a strict social stratification was taking place.  An elite class was emerging that was quickly becoming politically powerful and economically advantaged.  It is the emergence of this aristocratic class that led to several rebellions throughout colonial history.  The most famous of the rebellions was led by Nathaniel Bacon in Virginia in 1676.  Disheartened by the lack of opportunity afforded to middling planters, and angered by the governors lack of interest in defending the frontier against Indian attacks, Bacon led a rebellion. Bacon and thousands of disgruntled farmers led a revolt against Governor Berkeley and burned the capital.  This is one of several examples of social unrest within the colonies themselves.  

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What were the causes of the American Revolutionary War?

By 1763, a century and a half had passed since the first British colonies were established in North America. The colonies and the mother country were different in many respects, but in 1763 the idea of independence was unthinkable. A series of events between 1763 and 1775 led to the American Revolution (1775–1783) and the creation of the United States as a independent country.

In 1763, France was ejected from the North American continent, and this changed the relationship between the British Empire and its thirteen colonies. The war with the French had been expensive, so the British government sought to raise revenue to help pay for it. The Stamp Act, the Tea Act, and the Townshend Acts taxed the colonists. The colonists resented these taxes because they did not have representation in British Parliament; they believed that taxation without representation was tyranny.

A group of patriots centered in Boston began to challenge British authority during this period. This group included John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, among others. This area was also the location of violent incidents: the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.

By 1775, the war had started with battles at Lexington and Concord. Bloodshed and the publication of Common Sense by Thomas Paine pushed the colonists toward independence, which was declared on July 4, 1776.

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