Discuss the causes, nature, and significance of the American
The American Revolution began in 1775 as open conflict between the united thirteen
colonies and Great Britain. By the Treaty of aris that ended the war in 17!"# the colonies
had won their independence. The war began as a disagreement over the way in which Great
Britain treated the colonies versus the way the colonies felt they should be treated. Americans
felt they deserved all the rights of $nglishmen. The British# on the other hand# felt that the
colonies were created to be used in the way that best suited the crown and parliament.
According to nationalist historians# the American Revolution was ordained by God for all
man%ind to achieve greater human freedom# peace# and universal brotherhood. America
represented a land of liberty and progress while Britain represented tyranny and reaction.
Therefore# the character of revolution was radical and revolution represented a national
struggle of unified people with common belief in republican democratic values.
To imperial historians# emphasis was on political and constitutional issues and relationship
between British $mpire and colonies.
To progressive historians# emphasis was on social and economic causes. &n social terms# the
revolution reflected class conflict between upper and lower classes in colonial America that
meant internal class conflict. &n economic terms# it represented economic competition and
conflict between the colonies and mother country.
The 'orth American theatre of the primarily $uropean (even )ears* +ar was %nown as
the French and Indian War. &t was fought between Britain and ,rance from 175- to 17."
for colonial dominance in 'orth America. British officials tried to rally public opinion for the
war at the Albany /ongress in 175- but mustered only half0hearted support throughout the
colonies. American colonists dutifully fought alongside British soldiers# while the ,rench
allied themselves with several 'ative American tribes. This war ended after the British
captured most of ,rance*s ma1or cities and forts in /anada and the 2hio 3alley.
The roclamation o! "#$%# issued by the arliament# angered Americans intensely. 4uring
the ,rench and &ndian +ar# they had believed they were fighting for their right to e5pand and
settle west of the Appalachians. 6any firmly believed that this land was theirs for the ta%ing.
The proclamation thus came as a shoc%. 6any colonists chose to ignore the proclamation and
move westward anyway.
(ince the ,rench and &ndian +ar had left Britain with an empty poc%etboo%# arliament also
desperately needed to restoc% the Treasury. 7ed by Grenville# arliament levied heavier ta5es
on British sub1ects# especially the colonists. ,irst# in 17.-# Grenville*s government passed
the (ugar Act# which placed a ta5 on sugar imported from the +est &ndies. The &'gar Act
represented a significant change in policy8 whereas previous colonial ta5es had been levied to
support local British officials# the ta5 on sugar was enacted solely to refill arliament*s empty
The same year# arliament also passed the C'rrenc( Act# which removed devalued paper
currencies# many from the ,rench and &ndian +ar period# from circulation. &n 17.5#
arliament passed the )'artering Act# which re9uired residents of some colonies to feed and
house British soldiers serving in America. These acts outraged colonists# who believed the
ta5es and regulations# were unfair. 6any also 9uestioned why the British army needed to
remain in 'orth America when the ,rench and ontiac had already been defeated.
Though the colonists disli%ed all of these acts# they particularly too% offense to the
17.5 &tamp Act. This act re9uired certain goods to bear an official stamp showing that the
owner had paid his or her ta5. 6any of these items were paper goods# such as legal
documents and licenses# newspapers# leaflets# and even playing cards. ,urthermore# the act
declared that those who failed to pay the ta5 would be punished by the vice0admiralty courts
without a trial by 1ury.
2ther colonists too% their protests to the streets. &n Boston# a patriot group called the &ons o!
Li*ert( erected :liberty poles; to hang images of ta5 collectors and even tarred and feathered
one minor royal official. eople throughout the colonies also refused to import British goods.
<omespun clothing became popular as colonial wives# or +a'ghters o! Li*ert(# refused to
purchase British cloth.
&n 17.7# arliament passed the To,nshend Acts# which levied another series of ta5es on
lead# paints# and tea %nown as the Townshend 4uties. &n the same series of acts# Britain
passed the &'spension Act# which suspended the 'ew )or% assembly for not enforcing the
=uartering Act. To prevent violent protests# 6assachusetts Governor Thomas <utchinson
re9uested assistance from the British army# and in 17.!# four thousand redcoats landed in the
city to help maintain order. 2n 6arch 5# 177># an angry mob clashed with several British
troops. ,ive colonists died# and news of the Boston 6assacre 9uic%ly spread throughout the
&n 177"# arliament passed the Tea Act# granting the financially troubled British $ast &ndia
/ompany a trade monopoly on the tea e5ported to the American colonies. &n many American
cities# tea agents resigned or cancelled orders# and merchants refused consignments in
response to the unpopular act. Governor <utchinson of 6assachusetts# determined to uphold
the law# ordered that three ships arriving in Boston harbour should be allowed to deposit their
cargoes and that appropriate payments should be made for the goods. 2n the night of
4ecember 1.# 177"# while the ships lingered in the harbour# si5ty men boarded the ships#
disguised as 'ative Americans# and dumped the entire shipment of tea into the harbour. That
event is now famously %nown as the -oston Tea art(.
2ne big factor that led to the colonists* discontent is Mercantilism. 6ercantilism was the
idea that colonies were an important source of raw materials. A lot of the raw materials were
ta%en from America and sent to Britain to help the mother country manufacture goods to
trade with other countries. &t was thought that by increasing e5ports and collecting precious
metals in return# that it would improve the national wealth and power.
The Navigation Acts channelled the flow of colonial raw materials into $ngland and %ept
foreign goods and vessels out of colonial ports. The 'avigation Acts incorporated multiple
laws that were created over a period of time. The Acts were passed with the theory of
mercantilism# which restricted free trade. The Navigation Act o! "$." banned imported
goods from other countries# unless the ship or cargo had an all0British crew. The second Act
was e5tended to e5ports in addition to imports. ,our more Acts were passed between the
years of 1..? and 177"# which proposed even more restrictions on trade. The Molasses Act
in "##% forced the colonists to purchase the more e5pensive sugar from the Britain because
they had raised the ta5 on all sugar and molasses products coming from anywhere else.
&n @anuary 177-# arliament passed the Coercive Acts# also %nown as the Intolera*le Acts#
which shut down Boston <arbor until the British $ast &ndia /ompany had been fully
reimbursed for the tea destroyed in the Boston Tea arty. Americans throughout the colonies
sent food and supplies to Boston via land to prevent death from hunger and cold in the bitter
'ew $ngland winter. arliament also passed the =uebec Act at the same time# which granted
more rights to ,rench /anadian /atholics and e5tended ,rench /anadian territory south to
the western borders of 'ew )or% and ennsylvania.
To protest the &ntolerable Acts# prominent colonials gathered in hiladelphia at the First
Continental Congress in autumn of 177-. They once again petitioned arliament# Aing
George &&&# and the British people to repeal the acts and restore friendly relations. ,or
additional motivation# they also decided to institute a boycott# or ban# of all British goods in
the colonies.
2n April 1B# 1775# part of the British occupation force in Boston marched to the nearby town
of /oncord# 6assachusetts# to seiCe a colonial militia arsenal. 6ilitiamen of 7e5ington and
/oncord intercepted them and attac%ed. The first shotDthe so0called :shot heard round the
world; made famous by poet Ralph +aldo $mersonDwas one of many that hounded the
British and forced them to retreat to Boston. Thousands of militiamen from nearby colonies
floc%ed to Boston to assist.
&n the meantime# leaders convened the &econd Continental Congress to discuss options. &n
one final attempt for peaceful reconciliation# the 2live Branch etition# they professed their
love and loyalty to Aing George &&& and begged him to address their grievances. The %ing
re1ected the petition and formally declared that the colonies were in a state of rebellion.
The (econd /ontinental /ongress chose George +ashington# a southerner# to command the
militiamen besieging Boston in the north. They also appropriated money for a small navy and
for transforming the undisciplined militias into the professional /ontinental Army.
$ncouraged by a strong colonial campaign in which the British scored only narrow victories
Esuch as at Bun%er <illF# many colonists began to advocate total independence as opposed to
having full rights within the British $mpire. The ne5t year# the congressmen voted on @uly ?#
177.# to declare their independence. Thomas @efferson# a young lawyer from 3irginia#
drafted the 4eclaration of &ndependence. The Gnited (tates was born.
The American Revolution helped to strengthen the idea of the Hright of revolution*# the right
of people to overthrow an oppressive government. Thus# it e5pressed more fully# the
principles of the $nglish revolutions of the 17
century. The whole world was deeply
influenced by the establishment of a republic in America as well as by the gradual growth of
The American revolutionaries served as a source of great inspiration to the ,rench and others
who were being oppressed by autocrats or imperialists. The countries of the east# which were
under the control of the imperialists# regarded the Revolution as a good lesson for them. The
down trodden masses of ,rance were inspired to revolt against autocracy and aristocracy#
barely si5 years after the Treaty of aris was signed. Thus the spirit of nationalism began to
spread with the birth of the Gnited (tates of America.
The principles of freedom and democracy were upheld through slogans such as H'o ta5ation
without representation* and HGive me liberty or give me death*# which highly influenced the
minds of people all over the world. The rulers of all the countries also learnt that they would
not be permitted to rule# unless they changed their attitude and served the needs of the people.
Thus# %ings attempted to improve their administration.
The framers of the American constitution gave a practical lesson to the people of the world.
The people in other countries could also emulate the system of chec%s and balances
introduced in the American constitution. The Americans abolished %ingship. &nstead# they
elected a resident# to be in office for a four0year term. The world also received the e5ample
of a written constitution. ,urther# another praiseworthy achievement was the separation of the
church and the state.
America gave rise to great leaders such as Thomas aine# atric% <enry# Thomas @efferson#
Ben1amin ,ran%lin and Ale5ander <amilton. The hero of the +ar of &ndependence# namely
George +ashington# was honoured by being made the first resident born in a farmer*s
The American Revolution had a tremendous impact not only in The Gnited (tates# but also in
$urope and the rest of the world.
American 4estiny# 'arrative of a 'ation 0 6ar% /. /arnes# @ohn A. Garraty
Histor Sage:

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