The American Revolution was one of the most important events in the history of the United States of America. It was revolutionary. The people broke free from Britain and gained independence. The colonists were unhappy and tired of British rule. In comparison to the powerful and prosperous metro of New England, America appeared to be primitive, backwards, disorderly and turbulent, and without a real sense of aristocracy. The colonists constantly felt the need to apologize for being "less" than its counterparts because of their way of life, lack of art and literature, and the minute (unimportant) affairs. (Wood 3) [i]
In the 1760s, Great Britain forced their way of life upon the unexpecting colonists. America resisted to the sudden, imperial ruling and rebelled. Americans suddenly saw themselves socially equipped for a republican future. John Adams later said, "The Revolution was effected before the war commenced." It was a change "in the minds and hearts of the people." Not to be mistaken the American Revolution was more than just a "thought of change", but a constant push for transformation. (Wood 3-4) [ii] In an effort to explain the American Revolution the causes of the "rebellion" must be examined. The three main reasons for the American Revolution were: political, economic, and social causes.
Initially started by the rich and well born, the revolution began to involve the common people because they couldn't be excluded. The revolution involved a massive military involvement. (Robert A. Divine 81) In 1763, no one set out to gain independence, but through complex series of events, full of unexpected turns, extraordinary creativity, and great personal sacrifice, a rebellion was started. George III (1760) was responsible for the preservation of the empire, but through his politics and the attitude of the Parliament the people and government could not see eye to eye. This failure of communication and the inability for the two sides to understand each other made problems escalated more. The colonists believed that King George III and the entire British Parliament were too controlling and were not including them in the laws of the land. In 1775, the colonists took up arms against the British troops in the colonies. They met at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and some of the captured American soldiers were being executed. With all of these events, the adversity towards the English was growing. (Robert A. Divine)
The economic influences were greater than the political issues. The colonists were strongly convinced that much of the taxation imposed on them by Britain was unfair and unreasonable. They felt since Americans were not a part of Parliament then they shouldn't be responsible for the debts across the Atlantic. The Seven years' war left Great Britain with a huge national debt, and they were dead set on finding ways of revenue to make the payments. The Americans doubted the costs of the expensive Army, but George Grenville decided that the American colonists were going to contribute to the maintenance costs of the military. The Revenue Act of 1764, better known as the Sugar Act, was the first bill Grenville pushed through Parliament. This new tax put a burden on the Navigation Acts, and it was not a way to raise money, but raise trade with the mother country. (Robert A. Divine 84-85) In the eyes of Great Britain the American colonists' primary job was to build a favorable balance of trade. Before the Sugar Act even had time to come into play, another Act was being pushed through Parliament. The Stamp Act, which was already known to be resented, taxed newspapers, legal contracts, and marriage licenses purchased from royal stamp distributors. In 1766, the Stamp Act was repealed, but it was immediately replaced it with the Declaratory Act. (Robert A. Divine 85-86) This act basically stated that Britain had the right to impose whatever tax they wanted. The Quartering Act, which was imposed in 1765, required all colonists to provide provisions and housing, other items (candles, firewood, etc) to British troops under any circumstances. This was also thought to be unfair. When Britain imposed the Tea Act of 1773, the colonists realized that once they gained that kind of monopoly over tea, the same dominance and, in effect, manipulation would begin to appear on other commodities. These taxations made the colonists realize that the British needed to be stopped or they would always have control (Robert A. Divine 89,99).
Taxation, the right to impose taxation, and representation in Parliament were also significant issues in the American Revolution. The main beliefs of the colonists were that they shouldn't be able to be taxed by people who they had no say in electing. For an example, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, June 12, 1776, Section 6, referred to idea of "No taxation without representation." ("The Virginia Declaration of Rights (June 12, 1776)" Documents section). The colonists needed representation in Parliament to control taxes, because the representatives currently in Parliament didn't have the colonists' interests in mind. For example, the colonists shouldn't have had to pay taxes like the Stamp Act because the colonists were already largely contributing to their defenses, and that was the stated intention for the taxes. Many Americans at the time believed that the money collected from taxes wouldn't be used for the taxpayers' well-being or benefit, but for the strengthening of British control or increasing British revenue. It was argued that colonists were entitled to the same rights and liberties that Englishmen had, and that representation was no exception (Robert A. Divine 83). The controversy surrounding representation sparked many issues and began a lot of the conflict. In October 1768, the British made another critical error. The British tried to intimidate the colonists who were thought to be "troublemakers", but this act had a very fatal consequence. On March 5, 1770, the colonists started what seemed to be a "riot" in response to the treatment of them and troops unnerved fired and killed five Americans. The Boston Massacre was almost the straw that broke the camel's back. (Robert A. Divine 87) The final straw was the Tea Act. Parliament's reason for this act had nothing to do with revenue, but with saving the East India Company. The colonists had enough and began turning around tea ships before they unloaded. The colonists even had what was coined as the "Boston Tea Party" by throwing over 340 chests worth of tea into the water. Parliament did not find any humor in this and the Intolerable Acts was passed as punishment. (Robert A. Divine 89) America then began its steps towards independence. The first Continental Congress was meeting about the Intolerable Acts and the Americans responded in a terrible reaction. The tone was set and before Congress met again, "blows" came at Lexington and Concord. (Robert A. Divine 90)
When war started, it seemed clear to everyone that Britain would be the victor. With their large, well-organized land army, battlefield experience, and a navy that dominated the seas, why wouldn't they? The Americans had a smaller military with men who had never fought before. However, the Americans believed that they did have a strong chance of success because they had a lot at stake. Unlike the British, they were fighting on their home turf to protect their own homes and families, and this gave them a major advantage. The Americans knew the land and they didn't have to wait on supplies to be shipped across the Atlantic. The war continued on for many years and the support grew stronger, stronger in the American's favor, for independence, which overall helped them to defeat the British (Robert A. Divine 93). In September 1783, the war officially came to a close. The US, Britain, France, and Spain signed a peace treaty negotiated by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay. This agreement made the US free to be an independent country and made Spain a new republic. (Robert A. Divine 99-100)