The haphazard and disorganized British rule of the American colonies in thedecade prior to the outbreak led to the Revolutionary War.
The mismanagementof the colonies, the taxation policies that violated the colonist right’s, thedistractions of foreign wars and politics in England and mercantilist policies thatbenefited the English to a much greater degree then the colonists all show theBritish incompetence in their rule over the colonies. These policies anddistractions were some of the causes of the Revolutionary War. The interests of England within the colonies were self-centered. The Englishwere exploiting were trying to govern the colonies by using the mercantilistsystem. Mercantilism is when the state directs all the economic activities withinit’s borders(Blum 31). England was not attempting to make any changes thatwould help the colonists. They limited the colonies commerce to internal tradeonly(Miller 9). The English were exploiting the colonies by demanding that thecolonies import more from England then they exported to the colonies.
Theywere importing raw materials from the colonies and making them into exportablegoods in England. They would then ship these goods to foreign markets allaround the world including the colonies(America Online ). Throughout theseventeenth century the English saw America as a place to get materials theydidn’t have at home and a market to sell finished products at after the goods hadbeen manufactured. This was detrimental to the colonies because it preventedthem from manufacturing any of the raw materials they produced and made themIn addition to the unrest caused by their mercantilist policies, domestic politicalissues distracted them from the activities of the colonies. Throughout the sixteenhundreds, Great Britain was more involved in solving the Constitutional issue ofwho was to have more power in English government, the king or parliament.When this complex issue was finally resolved in the Glorious Revolution of 1688,England turned its attention back to the colonies and found that colonists haddeveloped their own identity as American.
There was no central office in England to control what was happening in thecolonies. The executive authority in England was divided among severalministers and commissioners that did not act quickly or in unison. Also, theBoard of Trade, the branch of government that knew more about the coloniesthan any other governing body in England, did not have the power to makedecisions or to enforce decrees. Due to the distractions from the complexconstitutional issues and ineffective governmental organization the colonists feltfurther separated from England(Blum 51). The political scene in England was laced with corruption. Officers of thegovernment sent to the colonies were often bribe-taking politicians that were notsmart enough to hold government positions in England. After Grenville andTownshend the most incompetent was Lord North, who became Prime Ministerin 1770 after the death of Charles Townshend.
“North was the kind of politicianGeorge had been looking for —-a plodding, dogged, industrious man, neither afool nor a genius, much like the king himself. For the next twelve years, despitethe opposition of abler men, he remained at the head of the government(Blum104).” Corruption and incompetence among governing politicians often madetheir rule over the colonies ineffective. In the years leading up to the final decade before the American Revolution, therelationship between Great Britain and her colonies in North America continuedto deteriorate.
Relations began to worsen with the great victory over the Frenchand Indians in the Seven Years War. Unwelcome British troops had remained inthe colonies. Debts from this war caused the Prime Minister at the time, LordGrenville, to enforce Mercantilism in an effort to get the colonists to pay theirshare of the national debt that had doubled since 1754(Blum 95). England passed many Acts that were ill conceived and had long term effects onthe relationship between England and the colonies.
The most controversial ofthese were direct taxes. The last time Parliament had tried a direct tax was asrecent as 1765, when Lord Grenville enacted the Stamp Act which forced thecolonists to pay for stamps on printed documents, the Stamp Act(Higginbotham34). The Americans had felt the taxes of Lord Grenville were “a deliberate aim todisinherit the colonists by denying them the rights of the English(Blum 96).” Thefirst of these acts were the Townshend Acts.
The Townshend Acts were passedin 1767 and placed new taxes on paper, paints, tea, lead and, glass. The newtaxes would be used to pay for British officials in the American service. Theseacts infuriated the colonists because they believed that Parliament had the rightto put taxes on the trade of the colonies but could not place taxes directly on thecolonists to raise revenue(America Online). The spokesperson of the colonies, John Dickinson, wrote in his “Letters of aPennsylvania Farmer,” on the issue of direct taxes. He distinguished betweentaxes that were imposed to regulate trade and those that were intended solely toraise revenue. If the tax was used to promote commerce it was justifiable, but ifthe tax was used only to gain revenue it was not viewed as a legitimatetax(America Online).
The colonists believed that this new tax was not legitimateand therefore there was strong opposition to it throughout the colonies. By 1766 England backed off in their efforts to tax their colonies. Following a yearof opposition from the colonists England revoked the Stamp Act and the firstQuartering Act, but they still passed the Declaratory Act (History Place). In 1766the Declaratory Act was passed. It was passed the same day that the Stamp Actwas repealed. The Declaratory Act gave the English government total power topass laws to govern the colonies. The British claimed that the colonies hadalways been and should always be subject to the British crown(Blum 99).
” In 1773 the Tea Act was passed. The Tea Act not only put a three penny perpound tax on tea but it also gave the British East India Company a nearmonopoly because it allowed the company to sell directly to the colonial agentsavoiding any middlemen. In Boston the colonists held a town meeting to try toget their Tea Agents to resign. The Tea Agents would not resign and a fewmonths later angered Bostonians dressed as Indians boarded three tea shipsand dumped it all into Boston Harbor(Blum 106). In 1774 the intolerable Acts were passed. They were passed as a way toreprimand the Bostonians for the Boston Tea Party. This didn’t go over well inBoston because both the innocent and the guilty were being punishedequally(America Online).
There were five acts within the Intolerable Acts. TheMassachusetts Government Act, a new Quartering Act, the Administration ofJustice Act the Quebec Act and the closing of the port of Boston. TheMassachusetts Government Act said that the Governor’s council had to beappointed by the King and limited town meetings to one per year. The newQuartering Act, “authorized the quartering of troops within a town (instead of inthe barracks provided by the colony) whenever their commanding officersthought it desirable.” The Administration of Justice Act stated that, “anygovernment or customs officer indicted for murder could be tried in England,beyond the control of local juries.” The Quebec Act was not intended to be usedas a punishment of the colonists, rather to extend the boundaries of the provinceof Quebec to the Ohio River and give the Roman Catholics in that provincereligious liberty and the double protection of French and English law.
But theQuebec Act actually angered the colonists because the colonists living inQuebec were getting rights that the Americans felt were being taken away fromDuring these years of ineffective rule, the causes of the Revolutionary Waremerged. Laws and policies enacted were self-serving, causing the colonists tovigorously resist and try to avoid British authority. The colonists moves towardreligious and commercial self-determination were overlooked while Englanddealt with the Seven years war and a domestic political crisis. All these factorshighlighted the differences and miscalculations of the British and were thebeginnings of the Revolutionary War.
Bibliography:Blum, John M. The National Experience. Fort Worth: Hartcourt Brace CollegePublishers, 1993.
Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence. New York: TheMacmillan Company, 1971. Miller, John C. Origins of the American Revolution.
London: Oxford UniversityPress, 1943. America Online, Research and Learn, History, American History, RevolutionaryWar Forum, Rev War Archives, Part 1. Prelude to Revolution 1763 to 1775.” The History Place.