Background to the American Revolution

  1. Seven Years War (French and Indian War) left England with problems to solve

    1. Indians - Britain now controls large territory filled with anti-British Indians

      1. Pontiac's Rebellion - 1763

        1. Coordinated series of Indian attacks took over all but one of the backcountry northern forts

        2. British break the rebellion by handing out smallpox-infected blankets

        3. British army unable to protect colonials from Indians

      2. Frontier colonists look for any excuse to attack Indians - various atrocities

    2. Fur trade - will it be controlled by British? By Indians? By colonials

    3. Land

      1. Who owns all this land taken from French?

      2. Colonists thought is was theirs, but argued over distribution

      3. Colonists sure about one thing - it didn't belong to the Indians

      4. British government thought it was theirs and they could sell it to colonists

    4. Military concerns

      1. How was Britain to defend this huge area?

      2. Very expensive to defend region

      3. British debt had doubled in war, while colonists had made money

      4. British thought then that colonists should pay at least part of defense

    5. Failure to solve these problems will lead directly to the Revolution

  2. British try to solve all these problems with Proclamation Act, 1763

    1. Draws a line along the crest of the Appalachians

    2. No settlements or fur trading allowed west of that line

    3. 10,000 British troops will be sent as a standing army to guard the line

      1. Settlers saw them as impediment to legitimate economic expansion

      2. Didn't like paying for standing army

      3. Didn't like a standing army, for that matter.

  3. The First Crisis 1764-1766

    1. George Greeneville becomes Prime Minister

      1. Terrible politician

      2. Believed strongly in superiority of Parliament

    2. Customs reform

      1. In the late 1600s and early 1700s, Parliament had imposed a series of customs controls, called the Navigation Acts

        1. forced colonists to trade sell certain products only to England, not to other countries

        2. but these laws inspired much  smuggling

      2. Customs houses cost more to operate than they collected in taxes

      3. Greenville makes all British naval captains customs officers, giving them the power to impose steep fines on smugglers

    3. Sugar Act, 1764

      1. Greenville and Parliament determined that colonies provide revenue

      2. The Sugar Act lowered duties on imported molasses (used for rum manufacture)

      3. But now this tax, long ignored, would actually be collected

      4. Wanted to use money to maintain army in colonies

      5. Also meant to assert royal authority over colonies

      6. Colonists did not see this as a lowered tax but imposition of new tax without their permission

      7. Many colonists in rum trade objected, as did colonial assemblies, but opposition not widespread among poor

    4. Stamp Act, 1765

      1. Meant to raise money to maintain army in colonies

      2. All paper products (newspapers, broadsides, licenses, legal documents, etc) would have to have a revenue stamp

      3. This did provoke a widespread reaction

      4. Stamp Act had impact on everyone

      5. And because it was on paper, had greatest impact on the most well-read and the most articulate

      6. Was strictly an internal tax, too. Seen as more serious constitutional problem that Sugar Act, an import tax.

    5. Quartering Act, 1765

      1. Forced colonists to provide food and shelter to soldiers

      2. A way to force colonists to pay for upkeep of soldiers

      3. Contributed to colonial sense of foreign occupation

  4. Colonial responded in four main ways to First Crisis (1764-1766)

    1. Argument

      1.  Patrick Henry (VA.) tried to argue that there was no legal basis for taxation without representation

      2. Convinced House of Burgesses to pass resolution condemning Stamp Act

      3. Poor communication made it look like they had passed something more radical than the really had.

    2. Violence

      1. "Sons of Liberty," other vigilantes threatened tax officials, burned hem in effigy, burned their homes

      2. Many resigned to save their own skins

    3. Boycott

      1. Boycotts of British goods organized across colonies

      2. Sons of Liberty coerced reluctant merchants into cooperating

      3. British merchants would lobby for repeal because of boycott

    4. Union

      1. Stamp Act Congress - 9 colonies sent representatives to NYC, October 1765

      2. Petitioned King that there could be no taxation without representation

      3. Believed colonists had same rights as Englishmen, but rights weren't honored

      4. Did not want independence - wanted rights as Englishmen

  5. A Defiant Repeal

    1. Parliament and England surprised at extent and strength of protest

    2. Agreed to repeal Stamp Act in 1766

    3. But - passed Declaratory Act

      1. Said Parliament had full and complete power to pass any act pertaining to the colonies at any time regarding any subject

      2. Legally correct, but not wise - bad politics.