Jackson Beckerley

The resistance that lead to the Revolutionary war.


The American revolution was a conflict that lead to secession from the British Empire before war broke out the revolution started as a social movement protesting Parliament’s unfair treatment of the Colonies. The movement itself was heavily influenced by enlightenment ideas that included Whig philosophy, the workings of John Locke and Thomas Paine. The seeds of insurrection may have already been sewn 100 years before the shot heard around the world was even fired, when British citizens such as Puritans and Separatists emigrated from Great Britain to New England over disagreements with the Anglican church.


The revolutionary war was a movement shaped through economic, social, ideological, and political factors, it was inevitable.

Outcome of the French Indian war

To understand what lead to the revolutionary war you must understand the outcome of the French-Indian war (also referred to as the seven years war) (1754-1763). Britain had won the war but at heavy costs. The Empire was waging war in a lot of other places at the same time and needed funds to support its military. Parliament saw the renewed patriotism in the colonies from winning the war and took the opportunity to gain tighter control as before the colonies governed mostly without direct interference.(Norton et al, 120) A series of pieces of legislation enacted by Parliament were created to generate revenue from imports as well as internal commerce in the American colonies. Previous duties and taxes had existed beforehand such as the sugar act prohibiting the selling of rum and molasses to the French Caribbean, but previously the Empire lacked proper enforcement for these laws. In addition, a lot of volunteer militia in the colonies themselves were not allowed to fight the French on the frontier. Many British regulars poured into America and stayed long after the war. The British didn't trust the intent of the Colonial militias (French& Indian Ushistory.org).
American colonists exported materials such as lumber, tobacco, rice, and cotton for textiles and shipped them to Britain. Imports from Britain would come back with finished products produced from the raw materials.

Parliament's folly.

The stamp, Townshend, and coercive acts were pieces of legislation concerning the colonies that are often pointed to as the cause of the war. The colonies were a part of a mercantile system that sold raw goods to England and then those raw goods would come back as finished products to be consumed (Norton et al, 72).There was a lack of cash the colonists could readily use and they were not permitted by Parliament under the Currency Act to create their own money to pay debt or taxes with an inflated dollar. This lack of liquidity in cash had put the American colonies in quite the dilemma as a lot of their wealth was being removed in taxes as well as purchasing imported goods yet they weren’t generating much of their own wealth to be able to pay these costs. A finished product is worth a lot more than the raw materials used to make them.
A Political cartoon put in the Pennsylvania Gazette the day before the passage of the stamp act.

The Stamp Act and representation issues

The Stamp act was one of the most controversial acts Parliament made to generate revenue from the American colonies. This law had set a tax on stamps which were used for letters, official documents, wills, property deeds, ledgers and other business papers. Some wonder as to why colonists who had duties put on trade before were in an uproar over this act. The House of Commons had asked Benjamin Franklin, then a lobbyist for the American colonies about America’s attitude to this law. " I never heard any objection to the right of laying duties to regulate commerce; but a right to lay internal taxes was never supposed to be in Parliament, as we are not represented there”(Colonists respond to the stamp act 1765-1766).The colonies had no representatives in the House of Commons or lords in the House of Lords. Britain followed a philosophy of “virtual representation”. Those elected into the House of Commons represented all British subjects and could represent people that weren’t even in their constituent (Norton et al, 124). The Colonies didn’t like this philosophy as at home they had adopted models of a more direct representative government. The political sphere of the colonies was already a rebellious one. Legislatures would often threaten to cut the royally appointed governor’s salary if they didn’t get their way. All laws enacted by the colonies were supposed to be reviewed by the King and his Cabinet within five years. Colonial legislatures would often enact laws that went against parliamentary policy and include an expiration date set four years after passage. The assemblies would repeat this process over and over. The colonists believed internal matters should be left to their local legislatures and issues regarding foreign affairs and commerce should be left to Parliament. Colonists believed Parliament didn’t and couldn’t possibly represent them.

Protests over the Stamp act.

organization of protests over the Stamp act varied from civil to barbaric. Mob action was rampant in certain parts the looting of the Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor’s house were evident of this (Norton et al, 127). Stamp masters enforcing the policies of the act and were often threatened by the townsfolk, some were tarred and feathered. Effigies of Stamp masters, customs officials, and Governors hanging from trees or in coffins were also displayed frequently. Poetry, literature and publishings scolding the act were quite common as well. One newsletter author asked his subscribers to pay their dues if they hadn’t already because the costs of the stamps would make him not able to print any more copies if dues weren’t collected. A stamp act congress convened in New York to petition the king and had Representatives from the colonies signing the document.(Colonists react to the stamp act 1765-1766).

Parliament responds to protests.

Finally, one year later the stamp act was repealed by Parliament but a series of similar legislation enacted only made things worse. Instead of trying to ease tensions between the mother country and their colonial cousins these series of acts reacted to the colonists reactions to the previous acts and rather rashly. Parliament with the Declaratory Act of 1766 deemed it could enact laws concerning the colonies and changing their governments “in all cases whatsoever” (Norton et al, 129). The passage of the Townshend acts introduced more admiralty courts were set up and more customs officers were commissioned to crack down on smuggling untaxed imports to the Americas. The other purpose of these acts was to ensure good salaries to governors and magistrates so they could remain loyal to the crown. Colonists in Boston soon harassed customs officials and magistrates prompting troops to be encamped in Boston to maintain order and that magistrates and customs officers could carry out their duties.

Tea time
The Tea act had little to do with taxes but rather keeping the massive and almost bankrupt East India Company afloat. Tea had actually become cheaper under this act as the East India Company became the only authorized supplier of tea to the colonies cutting out dealers purchasing the tea and then selling it. The process became more direct. Colonists, especially merchants saw this as a monopoly meant to control them. The Boston tea party dumped crates of tea in the harbor and many colonists boycotted tea.(Colonists react to the tea act, National Humanities Center).
Those that went to dump the crates of tea into Boston harbor were dressed in Indian regalia.

Parliament cries over spilled Tea

After the infamous Boston tea party, the Empire had enough of this behavior from the colonies especially Boston and the New England area. It introduced a series of acts known as the coercive acts or what the colonists referred to as the "intolerable” acts (Norton et al, 137). The first was the Port act, the Boston Harbor was to remain closed until the East India Company was compensated for the tea. The Quartering acts put soldiers in abandoned houses with a mission to protect customs officials from angry crowds. Colonists were required to contribute to the occupying soldiers living with food and supplies. The soldiers weren’t perceived well as there was a whole encampment of them in a city as peacetime and the ones that didn’t have any assigned duties often were rowdy, drunk or finding other work. In addition the coercive acts, the Massachusetts Government Act set up General Gauge to be the military Governor of Massachusetts and dissolved the assembly, In addition, the act severely limited the function of town meetings and made most positions in the government appointed. Neighboring colonists feared Parliament would do the same to them, dissolving their old charters. The Administration of Justice act set up more admiralty courts without a jury of peers, without an attorney, without bail, just a Judge, and a prosecutor. The accused were also to have their trials in Britain. The colonists had viewed this as unconstitutional. They argued that the right of habeas corpus was to be allowed by every British subject under the Magna Carta. (The Events that lead to the revolution 1763-1775).

Economic protests

Resistance became more and more heated. King George III and Parliament were petitioned to revoke these acts. At this time, colonists had felt more allegiance to the King than to Parliament. The monarchy had originally granted the colonial charters one hundred years prior so it made sense that people viewed him as the last protector of the people. The king was also a member of Parliament that addressed them directly. Secret societies had formed creating an underground resistance movement such as the sons and daughters of liberty.(Norton et al, 128-131). The sons of liberty started in New York and then spread throughout the east coast organizing protests. The Daughters of Liberty the female counterpart to the sons of liberty had sewing parties so Colonists no longer had to buy British imported textiles. Some Correspondence committees used to enforce policy set by the First Continental Congress shunned and threatened those who did not wish to participate in the boycotts (Colonists react to the stamp act 1765-1766). An economic war was being waged, Americans were disrupting the mercantile colonial system their society was structured upon. They had enough of the British tightly controlling their economy. The weapons colonists used were the power of mass boycotts and domestic production to reduce dependency on imports.

Boston Massacre

On March 5th, 1770 a heated incident in Boston would add to colonial dissent. A British sentry on Kings street was being harassed by a group of colonists and having stones and snowballs thrown at him and was insulted. The crowd began to grow larger as people yelled "turn out!" and church bells rung which usually signified a fire. The soldier managed to get some backup with seven more comrades arriving. The crowd had failed to disperse but grew larger, up to fifty persons, more objects were thrown at the sentries and they kept insulting them. Some reports say many members of the crowd were intoxicated and poured out of taverns. The sentries without orders fired into the crowd leaving three dead and wounding others (Norton et al, 134). The British soldiers would be tried in an American court for murder and were defended by lawyer John Adams who would later become second President of the United States. Two were convicted but had sentences reduced and five were acquited of all charges. Patriots such as Samuel Adams and Paul Revere would print artwork as propaganda for the rebellion.(The Events the lead to the revolution 1763-1775).
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The shot heard around the world

On April 19th, 1775 The shot heard around the world was fired at Lexington, Massachusetts. Seventy Colonial militia engaged several hundred British vanguards at dawn. Eight Colonists were dead and ten were wounded. (Norton et al, 150). The British forces moved to Concord where they were met with the local militia as well as many others from surrounding towns they retreated to the north bridge but were picked off in their retreat. In the end seventy British vanguards died and they had a total of 272 casualties the colonists only had 93 casualties.(Norton et al, 151) The British Army was on a mission to seize weapons and ammunition apparently stockpiled in Concord, luckily the Colonists elaborate network of spies the rebels got word a week before that the British knew of their stockpile and were preparing to take it. It’s not clear who fired the first shot but on that day the war broke out, a new nation would be forged with fire and blood. The bonds with the British Empire would become severed forever. Soon after this battle rebel militias would entrench themselves and surround Boston. The Second Continental Congress met on May 10th in Philadelphia to organize militias, set conscription quotas, commission officers as well as stockpile weapons and ammunition. Imperial sympathizers also had their property seized by the Second Continental Congress and local governments. Most sympathizers fled to Canada.
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In conclusion, the resistance that led to the revolution was inevitable. The American colonies were treated poorly by British Parliament and had had their social mobility, economy and civil liberties restricted through various pieces of legislation. This trifecta had created the fuel, oxygen and heat for the fire of a revolution to be created and sustained. A prevailing attitude of difference between themselves and their cousins from the mother country had also contributed to this. The colonists had gone several generations living in America and felt those in Britain could not represent them or possibly understand them. When a group of people has their social mobility restricted through economic and political means resistance whether it’s violent or peaceful is inevitable.

Works cited

1.Smith, Page. A New Age Now Begins. Vol. One. N.p.: McGraw-Hill, n.d. Print.

2.Norton, Mary Beth, Carol Sheriff, David W. Blight, Howard P. Chudacoff, Fredrik Logevall, and Beth Bailey. A People and a Nation Brief Ninth Edition. Ninth ed. Vol. 1. Boston, MA: Wasworth, 2012.

3."Colonists Respond to the Stamp Act 1765-1766." America in Class. National Humanities Center, 2010. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.

4."The French & Indian War." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2015. <http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/related/frin.htm>.

5.Center, National Humanities. Colonists Respond to the Tea Act & the Boston Tea Party, 1773-1774 (n.d.): 1-17. Americaintheclass.org. Web.

6."The Events That Led to the American Revolution 1763-1775."APUSHistoryCase -. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2015. <http://apushistorycase.wikispaces.com/The+Events+that+Led+to+the+American+Revolution+1763-1775>.

Images used.
Mercantile system chart:
O, fatal stamp!:
Boston Tea Party

Center, National Humanities. Colonists Respond to the Tea Act & the Boston Tea Party, 1773-1774 (n.d.): 1-17. Americaintheclass.org. Web.http://apushistorycase.wikispaces.com/The+English+form+of+government+in+the+colonies