The Quest for Independence

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The quest for independence started long before the American Revolution.

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The Patriots

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By 1776, the population of the colonies had reached 2.5 million people. This was about one third the population of Britain. There were now many roads connecting the individual colonies, and newspapers kept them informed about each other. The colonies were beginning to think of themselves as Americans, not as separate colonies.

Many colonists were split over the issue of independence. There were both rich and poor colonists on both sides of the independence issue.

Large landowners like George Washington, and wealthy businessmen like John Hancock were in favor of independence. There resented British control over their lives, and British interference in their business.

On the other hand, some rich colonists were afraid they would lose their wealth if the revolution succeeded. Their wealth was heavily connected to British trade and the British government. Some poor colonists didn't want to be controlled by the wealthy colonists. They either believed the King of England treated them well, or just didn't want to cause trouble.

Over time, support for independence grew as issues like taxation without representation angered the local population.

 

Lack of Government Representation

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When England colonized America it had no master plan on how the colonies would be governed. Some colonies governed themselves. Other colonies were governed by the King's officials. The King insisted on his right to create laws governing the colonies. British parliament also created laws that governed the colonies.

The British passed laws that were in the best interest of England, not the colonies. For example, they passed the Navigation Act which restricted colonists from competing with British businesses. They also prevented colonists from selling their goods to countries other than Britain, even if the country was willing to pay a higher price than the British. Britain made it difficult for the colonies to trade with the French and the Spanish.

While the British continued to enforce their control of the colonies, they refused to allow the colonies government representation in England. The British believed that their own appointed government officials adequately represented the colonies.

The colonies resented British control. The colonies created their own laws, and ignored the British laws they did not like. This created considerable tension between Britain and the colonies.

 

Taxation

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While England found governing its colonies in America difficult, it also found it expensive. Britain had recently fought the French and Indian War, which gave it control of Canada and much of the land east of the Mississippi. The war was very expensive for England, and it now needed more money to maintain soldiers in all these areas. In 1764, the British government decided to tax the colonists to pay a share of the costs.

The British taxed all sugar bought from the French or Spanish. The British then created the Stamp Act, requiring all newspapers and legal documents to carry a stamp purchased from the British. These taxes angered the colonists and they managed to force the British to eliminate the Stamp Act and to reduce the taxes on sugar.

 

The Townsend Act

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In 1767, the British passed new taxes on glass, paper, teas, paints and other goods shipped to the colonies from Britain. Prime Minister Charles Townsend wanted to raise money to cover the cost for defending the colonies, and pay the salaries of governors and judges in the colonies. These were known as the Townsend Acts.

The colonists reacted by refusing to buy British goods. The colonists argued that they shouldn't be taxed since they had no representation in the British government. The colonists rallied behind the phrase, "No Taxation without Representation." Again Britain was forced to remove the taxes, all except for the tax on tea.

 

Books about the American Revolution

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