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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
Our nation has prospered and grown thanks to the American Revolution. Our founding fathers sought to live in a country where ordinary citizens could make their own choices in life. The American Revolution was essentially a revolt taking place in 1765 and ending in 1783. This colonial fight meant that American Patriots in 13 different colonies managed to secure independence from Great Britain, thus forming the United States of America. The British were defeated in the American Revolutionary War which was also carried out with France as major allies. This paper seeks to outline the important events that led to the revolution and the causes of the American Revolution. A significant factor was the multiple taxes, which were imposed by the English on people living in America. Due to its hefty war debts, the United Kingdom was fast running out of money.
The government was trying to keep the French and Native American tribes from seizing the property and land, which Britain had claimed for it. Both Americans and English could boast great military and political leadership. Many of these people played a crucial role in the revolution. Between 1775 and 1780, in a violent five year period, many lives were lost in battle. The English, finally, retreated after the battle of Saratoga, a big turning point in favor of America. A new nation was beginning to form an identity. A new government had to be introduced, and above all, the creation of a new flag of America. Our nation truly began with the American Revolution.
The outcome of the American Revolution has always been a highly intriguing subject for many people, a war that was fought between recently formed colonies and Britain. Over the past 240 years, since our country was born, we remain strong and steadfast, in spite of the many setbacks and challenges that may exist. Due to taxation without representation, and perennial control by the British, many major battles and events took place in the build-up to the revolution.
This revolution stands as a transformative moment in world’s history when men, women, and children journeyed to a new land to get away from religious oppression and Monarchy (Greenberg & Page, 2011).
In the Indian and French war of 1754 to 1763, Britain defeated France and its Native American allies. As a result, Britain established full control over most of the North American continent. However, it had been an expensive war, and Parliament made the decision to ask the colonies of Empire to help pay for their own defense.
England imposing taxes on the American colonies, and continuing to rule over them without parliamentary representation, was the trigger for revolution. While thirteen colonies of America each had a delegation to represent their interests, their voices did not hold much sway. The system of government over the colonies required King George III to appoint a governor. An assembly was also elected by a council and the population, modeled on the UK House of Lords. (Miller, 1943).
The Lords was a government entity comprised of individuals who had been knighted or were simply very wealthy. With American colonies, the representatives were often the close friends of the King or relatives of the governor. As they were viewed as being of a lower class, there was no equal power within the council and they could not influence easily any decisions made by the governor. Indeed, the governor effectively held complete control. There were some cases where the governor put forward his own rules in disagreement with the King. (Miller, 1943).
In order to escape its debts, Britain introduced a series of taxations and acts of parliament. Their wars caused them to owe between 70 to 140 million pounds, in addition, to 350 thousand pounds to continue to protect the colonies (Shannon, 2006; Miller, 1943). The Stamp Act, Tea Act, Navigation Act, Intolerable Act, and Quartering Act were introduced in order to collect tax revenues from the colonies.
The Navigation Act was brought in to control the delivery of goods to the various colonies. But the legislation was not effective due to it being enforced very badly. In the Declaration of Independence, there is no mention of this particular act. As our founding fathers wished to maintain strong commercial links with Britain, in 1783 they established the Peace Treaty, making trade between these two countries easier.
As punishment for the colonists’ behavior at the infamous Boston Tea Party, the Quartering Act was put into law. Established in March 1765, it was enforced for only two years. During this time, British soldiers were required to lodge in colonists’ houses. But many colonies simply ignored the act. They hated the new law because people were being forced to accept complete strangers from a foreign country into their homes. The second amendment to the Bill of Rights was drafted to prevent this from ever occurring again. (Miller, 1943; Parkinson, 2006).
When colonies refused to comply with the Quartering Act, parliament responded, according to Parkinson (Parkinson, 2006). Despite the fact that many colonies worked to resist the new act, Parliament worked in order to pass a new act in 1767 called the Restraining Act which Americans certainly understood to have dangerous implications for society. The New York assembly was suspended until it was to comply with the Quartering Act. The aim was also to prevent the dissolution of New York legislature from occurring.
The Stamp Act could be summarized as a huge taxation on almost everything. It was seen as an efficient way for Britain to escape from its debts, which is why the act was passed. It was also made into law in Britain. Any items that required being stamped were included under the tax: playing cards, dice, alcohol licenses, land patents, legal documents, and newspapers. The colonies were angered by this new tax because they were still being granted no representation in the government of the UK. In the American Constitution, central government and individual states were given the same powers of taxation in order to earn the government more revenue. The next year, the Townshend Act was passed by the British, similar in structure and intent to the hated Stamp Act. (McDonald, 2006 b; Miller, 1943; Shannon 2006).
The one event that is said to have finally provoked revolution was passing the Tea Act. The government sought to assist the struggling East India Tea Company by lifting all duties and tariffs. Unsurprisingly, the colonials were outraged at this news and responded by raiding the Company’s ships in Boston harbor and throwing tea overboard. To punish those guilty, Britain passed the Intolerable Act a year later.
In 1774, the Boston Port Act did not allow the city harbor from trading and kept the harbor closed meaning that was no longer able to import and export any goods apart from British Armed Force supplies and fuel for coast trading. This brutal blockade wouldn’t be lifted until the East India Tea Company was paid back for all of their goods that had been so needlessly wasted and destroyed. Following from this, the Government Act from Massachusetts changed things around so that the king was able to then appoint council members allowing for a whole new way of selecting members to serve on the jury. The result was parliament changing to sympathize according to the support of the British reforming and constitutional party. This act, besides making sure that the House of Representative’s powers had been stripped, worked to lessen the number of town meetings.
The Administration of Justice Act allowed a different Great Britain colony to receive some of these trials from America and so this lead to a lot of rioters, magistrates and officials being transferred. This law was set up in order to provide protection for British officials who thought they wouldn’t be entitled to have a fair trial in a Massachusetts courtroom or any courtroom in Boston. It was thought that detractors of the law thought that soldiers would be able now too much more easily kill people from Massachusetts which was a worrying thought. The Quartering Act was passed soon after, allowing British officers to be given billeting in buildings that weren’t inhabited if they needed it.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Colonists agreed that they would prefer to escape from English rule and instead become American citizens. (Carp, 2006). Both Britain and America produced great leaders who played a major role in the American Revolution. They include Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin – all now household names. This group was named among the Founding Fathers of the United States. On the other side, King George III, Lord North, William Pit the Elder, Lord George Germaine and Edmund Burke led the English cause. All of these men were influential in shaping the birth of our nation. (Foster, Ghering, Light, &McCollum, 1999).
Cheney et al. (2003) explained that they think the founding fathers to be such an inspiration because they believe them to have a detailed and practical understanding of the human condition, and they acted thoroughly professionally as politicians and leaders. The founding fathers, as explained by Cheney et al. (2003) at the time, were in a whole new league of politics because they commanded an excellent understanding of ethics and human values.
The revolution was assisted by important events and battles between 1775 and 1776. The 1st and 2nd Continental Congress meetings were vital to this period. There was also the Declaration of Independence and a legendary pamphlet authored by Thomas Paine. The military campaigns of this period were the New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts Campaigns (Stephenson, 2007). In September 1774, in the city of Philadelphia, the first meeting of the Continental Congress was held. With the exception of Georgia, all the colonies were presented by a total of 44 delegates. Among them were Samuel Adams, John Adams, George Washington and Patrick Henry. These men concurred with each other that taxation by Britain was unacceptable, and responded by setting up the Olive Branch Petition. So that colonists could sign their names to it, they left the petition on display in a Wall Street tavern.
Jasanoff (2007) details how many people sought a political transformation when he describes how, during 1776, anyone could have signed the petition on Wall Street and over seven hundred people managed to do so. That piece of parchment that held the words of this petition was signed over twelve times more than the number of signatures that had been noted down on the Declaration of Independence.
King George III was reportedly insulted when the delegation sent the petition back to Britain. In May 1775, the leaders agreed to convene once more. In the 2nd Continental Congress, a decision was made to issue a declaration of war against Britain, in order to protect the colonies. George Washington was appointed the head of the militia (Ferling (n.d.), “The Revolutionary War Index” ).
In January 1776, Thomas Paine put pen to paper on his famous pamphlet, published a month later. In it, he outlined why was necessary to declare war on the mother country. Almost every person in the thirteen colonies read Paine’s argument. 500,000 copies were sold. His actions were denounced by the British government, who excluded him from teaching. By galvanizing a mass support, Paine helped ordinary people believe the revolution was possible (Kidding, 1995,”The Revolutionary War Index”).
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence during the 2nd Congress in Philadelphia, in 1776. It detailed the practicalities of how America would divide itself from Britain. Once it had been written, the declaration was printed in newspapers and magazines and spread amongst American soldiers. This was all about creating the belief that the revolution was actually going to take place. A few years later, America was a free and independent country. (Ferling, (n.d.); Yirush, 2006).
The initial clash between the British and the colonists was the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. With an unusual strategy, the British Red Coats were killed by militia and patriots on the long march from Concord to Lexington, by ambushing them in the woods. As the colonist numbers were far fewer than the British army, this is the only way they thought they might win. A ratio of 3:1 men were injured/killed on both sides in this bloody battle (Stephenson, 2007, pp. 203-210).
On June 17, 1775, another big battle took place at Bunker Hill. The city of Boston prepared itself for a British attack by fortifying all the ports and hillsides, stopping the foreign soldiers from entering. But English soldiers were too quick for the colonists. However, although the British army won this battle, they suffered more losses. In a heroic effort, colonists kept the British back and suffered only a 12% rate of casualty; Britain suffered 45%. (Stephenson, 2007, pp. 203-210).
Another important struggle came a year later in August 1776: the Battle of Brooklyn Heights. The aim for both sides was to gain control of the Hudson River, the main trading river in the northeast. Britain was able to sail larger ships along this waterway due to the depth of the straits. In order to guard this area, Washington sent 35,000 soldiers. The British deployed the same strategy as at Bunker Hill. In the end, colonists were defeated, damaging morale. The English capitalized on this. (Stephenson, 2007, pp. 230-250).
The recovery in morale was in large part due to the creation of a new American flag. It soon became a symbol of identity and pride for colonists’ troops. It was made by a seamstress named Betsy Ross from Philadelphia, whom George Washington visited while attending the Constitutional Congress. The first design had thirteen stars and red stripes in the corner. The stripes stood for freedom and the thirteen stars were to show the original colonies. Mrs. Ross kept on making American flags until her death aged eighty-four. (“Did Betsy Ross”, 1908).
The same people, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, were also responsible for drafting the Articles of Confederation. It contained a description of the importance to citizens of a strong, capable government. Congress was put in charge of foreign relations, but taxation was taken away from its control. Nor did these articles put into place the three branches of government that today sit within the American constitution. (“The Revolutionary War Index”, (n.d.)).
Worsening tensions between colonists and the British continue as the army relocated from New York to Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Campaign, which began in the 1770s, sparked into life. England sought to achieve command of the large cities in every colony. In response, the colonists built a fortress named Valley Forge 35 miles outside of Philadelphia on the Schuylkill River. Yet again, the British defeated them. (Stephenson, 2007, pp. 267-288; “The Revolutionary War Index”, (n.d.)).
The colonists, the French and the native Indians teamed up to vanquish the British for good. Washington’s army was struggling on, with low morale and short supplies. In order to reinvigorate their hunger for victory, he wrote to his commanders. They began to fight with more energy, increasing the British casualty rate. After winning this decisive battle, the colonists celebrated and the English retreated. Thus, began the evolution of a new country (Stephenson, 2007, pp 288- 310).
It turns out that one of the colonist soldiers had been secretly working for the British. His name was Benedict Arnold, a high-ranking army officer. Arnold is now remembered as, perhaps, the most notorious traitor in American history. In the end, he confessed to his treason and was executed (Stephenson, 2007; “The Revolutionary War Index”, (n.d.)).
The United States finally earned its independence from Britain in early 1780. After the Red Coats retreated back across the Atlantic Ocean, a new country was born – the United States of America. Since its rapid development from the late 18th century, this nation has prospered enormously. By promoting free trade and speech around the world, the U.S. has grown into a superpower. The American Revolution has doubtless inspired other freedom fighters to stand up for what is right and experience the treasures of life in a free land. (“Essay: Revisionism: A New, Angry Look at the American Past”, 1970; “The Revolutionary War Index”, (n.d.)).
The American Revolution has taught people from all over many lessons and has served as an inspiration. One lesson to draw is that the revolution trained Americans to think outside the box and try new military strategies in order to succeed. It was only during the period of the American Revolution that they began to send spies to the British kingdom in order to uncover all of their secrets, hiding behind trees and firing with an element of surprise. The American Revolution also inspired a large wave of camaraderie, as individual colonies set aside their differences and worked together to defeat the common enemy. This helped inspire a lot of new hope in politics for America for many years to come. Last but not least, it inspired people not to give up on their beliefs and to fight on and on, even if it was for such a treacherous period of time – it would all serve to be worth it in the end for the American people.
We should look at the Revolution as an inspiring piece of American history. It would not be possible for people to work and live in a democracy with the American Dream as an opportunity for all if it weren’t for the American Revolution. Without the founding fathers declaring that they want a perfect Union, things would be a lot different. Let us not forget the most important declaration of the founding fathers that they made, and the result of their actions on American prosperity.