The American Revolution was a turning point in not only the history of America, but in the rest of the world as it inspired many uprisings in other parts of the world as well, most notably, the French Revolution. Brief Background: There were 13 British colonies situated in America, with each having their own separate legislature. A Governor was appointed by the British Government to look after the work of the colony. Great Britain used to import raw material from these colonies, and exported manufactured articles. Causes: The causes were for the American Revolution can be outlined under two broad headings, namely:
- Fundamental Causes
- Immediate Causes
- Attitude of Americans towards Britain The people who were exiled to America had a natural feeling of discontentment towards the British Government.
- Unsatisfactory Administrative System Friction between the people’s representatives and nominated executives caused trouble. The Governor General was authorized to reject the Act of the Parliament. The salary of the Governor was to be borne by the colonial exchequer.
- Mercantilist Regulations The American people were not satisfied with the prevalent commercial system. A number of regulations were passed by the British Parliament which restricted the scope of colonial exports and imports. For example, the colonists were forced to sell their goods only to English merchants and were allowed to buy foreign goods, only after paying duty at an English port.
- Influence of Seven Years’ War
There was a change in English colonial policy from 1763 onwards, which was after the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) in Europe. Britain finally achieved victory over France and her allies, and she received Canada from France, after signing the treaty of Paris. However, this war proved costly, and strained the resources of Britain to the extent that her government started imposing heavy duties on her manufactured goods. The colonists heaved a sigh of relief when the French lost Canada to Britain after the Seven Years’ War. They no longer feared a French attack on their colonies. This development gave them a sense of courage and self-confidence, thus creating a ground for demands of independence. Britain maintained that since she protected the colonies during the Seven Years’ War, she felt it only just that the colonies share a part of the financial burden. King George III began to assert his position and forced the cabinet to secure parliamentary sanction for imposing new taxes on the colonists. Royal officials in the colonies were ordered to strictly enforce mercantilist trade regulations. Immediate Causes:
- Sugar Act,1764 The passing of the Sugar Act in 1764 by the British Parliament meant that duty was to be imposed on molasses imported by the colonists. The colonists, thus resorted to smuggling molasses, but their activities were curbed.
- The Stamp Act
In the following year, 1765, George Grenville who was the British Prime Minister introduced a new measure, the Stamp Act. Through this act, the colonists were required to register various legal documents and licenses by affixing revenue stamps. The colonists reacted very sharply to this. Heaps of stamps and effigies of stamp collectors were burnt- there were riots in New England and New York. It was only after the British Government repealed the act that the mobs ceased their agitation. However, the British Government insisted on its right to tax the colonies.
- Townshend Act (1767)
Charles Townshend, proposed duties on colonial imports of glass, lead, paint, paper and tea. In 1770, Lord North took over as Prime Minister and removed the octroi from paper and glass but did not free tea. This agitated the Americans.