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Causes of the American Revolution, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 698

Essay

There were many causes of the American Revolution. They were more economic and legal than social and religious. A well-described and itemized list of some of the most famous of those grievances from the colonial perspective can be found in the Declaration of Independence of 1776. Among others listed on that document was “For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us” (National Archives). Overall the tone of the document is bitter.

Eleven years earlier, in a much more friendly tone professing an abiding loyalty to the Crown , the so-called Stamp Act Congress yet issued a lengthy proclamation declaring in part: “That  his Majesty’s subjects in these colonies owe the same allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain that is owing from his subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that august body the Parliament of Great Britain” (Tindall and Shi). This would seem to imply acceptance of one painful duty, put forth by George Grenville, King George’s chief minister, who “was determined to have the colonies help defray the costs of the vast empire of which they were a part” (Tindall and Shi). But how, exactly? Empires are highly expensive, and the colonists also insisted “That his Majesty’s liege subjects in these colonies are entitled to all the inherent rights and liberties of his natural born subjects within the Kingdom of Great Britain.” The infamous Stamp Act, of course, violated that principle because it was a direct tax on the colonists alone: “ . . . there shall be raised, levied, collected, and paid unto his majesty, his heirs, and successors, throughout the colonies and plantations in America . . . ” (Independence Hall) — although English citizens in England itself were also highly taxed. One gets the impression that all of the colonists were seething with discontent. Although in the major cities they probably were — at least from time to time and among a certain types of people — it might be a serious misimpression to imagine that discontent had long been widespread. Consider the Letter to America that Alexander Thomson wrote to his friends and relations in Scotland. Thomson’s letter was published in Glasgow, Scotland in 1774. Thomson had traveled to America in 1771, landing in post-Massacre Boston, which must really have been seething, as indeed must have been Philadelphia (in “Pensylvania” as well as “Pensilvania”). Yet Thomson quickly became a prosperous farmer, owning land about 150 miles from “Fort-pit” [later Pittsburgh].

The noteworthy thing about Thomson’s letter is that neither England, the English, Britain nor the British are so much as mentioned by name. He does use the phrase “the three kingdoms”, meaning England, Scotland, and Ireland but there is no talk of political discontent here, nor in fact of much discontent at all, (although it should be noted that his letter was written before the Stamp Act of 1765 became law). Instead, he writes “. . . we have here no tithes, or general taxes, or poor-rates . . . or such other grievances, as tend to relax diligence or industry of the farmers” (Johnson).[1] Here we see a possible division between the colonists: rural vs. city, a divide that would show itself later when the rural American South seceded from the more industrial North.

It was certainly true that at the time of the Revolution farmers and other rural-dwellers — the vast majority of colonists — were far more self-sufficient than were city dwellers, who, as burgeoning manufacturers and retailers, would have been more directly dependent on trade with England and thus hemmed in by the many restrictions England placed upon that trade and manufacturing. That would change soon enough, and Thomson’s sons fought the British (Wylie).

Works Cited

Independence Hall. The Stamp Act. 2014. Website. 2 March 2015.

Johnson, Michael P. Reading the American Past. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. Book.

National Archives. The Charters of Freedom. n.d. Website. 2 March 2015.

Tindall, George Brown and David E. Shi. America: A Narrative History. New York City: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. Book.

Wylie, T.W.J. “Franklin County One Hundred Years Ago.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 1884: 313-314. Periodical.

[1] He also writes of the “well-trained militia”, echoed later in the Bill of Rights’ “well-regulated Militia.”

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