The Prelude to the American Revolution Essay Example


Throughout history, America has been involved in many different wars. Those that are famous among Americans include the American Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the two World Wars, and there are libraries full of books about them. Young Children are also familiar with these wars and the great events in them, such as Paul Revere’s Ride, The Battles of Lexington and Concord, D-Day, and so on. But an event that a lot of people know little of is The French and Indian War. Also known as the Seven Years’ War, it was fought between the colonies of Great Britain, France, and both countries’ respective Native American allies from 1754-1763. Though not nearly as prominent as the American Revolution or the Civil War, it was nonetheless an event of immense importance, because of the war’s major ramifications. The French and Indian War drastically changed the relationship between Britain and its colonies.

Probably the most significant change in the relationship between Britain and its colonies was their economic relation. Before 1763, the colonies were in a state of salutary neglect, when trade regulations were laxly enforced and imperial supervision was loose. However, due to the war, Britain plunged into £137 million pounds of debt. With territories stretching from Southern Asia to Canada, administering a global empire like this was extremely costly, and landowners in England were already overtaxed. (Schweikart and Allen 63, 65, 70) So, in an effort to raise revenue, Britain’s prime minister George Grenville championed the passage through Parliament of the Sugar Act in 1764.

This legislation not only placed tariffs on sugar, coffee, and other imports into the North American colonies but also imposed increased enforcement measures to end smuggling and collect all taxes due. Parliament then continued to shift the financial burdens to the colonists with The Stamp Act in 1765, which taxed all forms of paper including newspapers, licenses, legal documents, and even playing cards. Unlike the Sugar Act, this was a direct tax without representation and the colonists were angered to the point that a young lawyer named Patrick Henry suggested that Parliament “had no legal authority to tax the colonies at all.” (Borneman 297) The Stamp Act was repealed in 1766 after much opposition, but Parliament issued a Declaratory Act, maintaining that it had the authority to pass new taxes any time it chooses.

And in 1773 Britain passed the Tea Act, which taxed all tea sent to the colonies. Tea was an essential part of the life of American colonists because it was the staple nonalcoholic drink since water back then was polluted with bacteria and disease. Though this tax was lighter compared to previous ones, colonists were still fumed at this new law, and public meetings were held to strategize to not only boycott the product but also prevent the tea from being unloaded in America. And on December 1773, three ships carrying tea reached Boston Harbor, whereupon a crowd of more than seven thousand colonists from the Sons of Liberty led by Samuel Adams greeted them. Dressed as Mowhawk Indians, they boarded the vessels and dumped 342 chests of tea overboard while not harming the local authorities or crew members. This event is now known as the Boston Tea Party. (Schweikart and Allen 71, 75)

Increased taxation was not the only change in the relationship between the colonies and Britain. Right after the war ended, England, in fear of an uprising, established a policy known as the Proclamation Line of 1763, which prohibited new settlers and trading charters from traveling beyond the Appalachians. This alienated many of the new settlers in the west due to their desire for Westward Expansion and also disturbed many aspiring traders. (Schweikart and Allen 65) Additionally, General Jeffrey Amherst stopped the Native Americans’ long-established custom of presents by eliminating cash outlays for gifts and cutting them off from any trade goods, angering many tribes. As a result, in May of 1763, an Indian chief named Pontiac led a huge assault on many forts across the northern frontier, and all fell except for Fort Detroit and Fort Pitt. English forces eventually regrouped and they defeated the Native Americans in 1764 before signing a series of peace treaties with them over the next few years. (Borneman 283-293)

 

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