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What Were the Main Causes of the American Revolution?

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The American Revolution was caused by the unique nature of the American Colonists and their society in contrast to their relationship with the English Government and peoples. Life in America was not a life of leisure. American colonists had worked hard to cultivate their lands and develop their towns and cities. Rural life in the American colonies consisted not only of farmers but tradesmen also prospered. (Handlin. 24) By 1763, the American Colonies were spreading west. The expelling of the French and the Spaniards in 1763 opened lands of opportunity for the colonists. American colonists who settled in the new lands and the New World were a, "fresh breed of humans, self-reliant, rationalistic, disdainful of established ideas and authorities, vain, provincial, sometimes violent, often reckless". (Handlin 130)

Tensions began to build in the Colonies right after the 7 years war, or the French and Indian War. At this time the American Colonies were prospering. The colonists in America had no oppressing chains to throw off. "In fact, the colonists knew they were freer, more equal, more prosperous and less burdened with cumbersome feudal and monarchical restraints than any other part of mankind in the 18th Century". (Wood 4) They had achieved an economic and political maturity that resented outside interference. (Jensen 34) They did not discover new ideas after 1763, but held up ideas of the rights of Englishmen which had begun back with the Magna Carta. The route to the American Revolution was based on this unique American character and the lack of understanding, which the British Government had for it.

After the 7 years war, England was heavily in debt. This was the most that they'd ever been in debt in their history. Two years before the end of the war King George II died, and his grandson George III became king. King George III held the theory that to rule an empire you had to have a tight grip. "The colonies had always been the domain of the crown, administered by royally appointed officials. Parliament had seldom interfered--except to pass the Acts of Trade and Navigation, laws relating to finance, and laws prohibiting or limiting certain colonial manufactures. The attempt by parliament to raise money in the colonies by acts of Parliament, coupled with other restrictive legislation and administrative decisions, forced Americans, for the first time, to attempt a serious definition of their concepts of the power of Parliament over the colonies" (Jensen p.5).

Custom laws, which the crown had passed, had never really been enforced. Some of these acts included the 1704 act which required that the colonies limit their export of rice and molasses as well as tar, turpentine, hemp, and other naval stores to England alone, the 1721 act that prohibited importation of any tea, pepper, spices, drugs, silks, and cotton fabrics except through England and the East India Company, and in 1722 the White Pines Act which restricted New Englanders from felling trees beyond a certain circumference. In 1733 The Molasses Act put a tax on molasses which was a key ingredient in making rum (Cook p. 53). The non enforcement of these acts put no strain on the relationship between the colonists and England. The colonists traded with other nations and basically bribed their way out of the restrictions of the acts.

With the French and Indian War over, England was heavily in debt. They were over 133 million pounds in debt. King George III appointed ministers to develop plans to alleviate the debt. Ministers in England encouraged tighter enforcement of the custom laws and control of the colonies. "For political tacticians of considerable skill, these ministers made some surprising mistakes: making decisions in ignorance of American views was one of the worst; and refusing to compromise when these views were expressed was hardly less serious". (Middlekauff 49)

The King appointed Lord Grenville to be Prime Minister. Among his first acts was the Proclamation of 1763, which declared that no Americans would be allowed to locate west of the Allegheny Mountains. This was an attempt to confine the Americans to the East Coast where they could be watched and more easily governed. They also decided to keep troops in the Colonies to help defend against the Indians. This was not a popular item since the colonists believed they could defend themselves and they wondered what the real reason for the troops were. (Fleming 49)

Grenville also decided to revise the Molasses Act. He did this by doing away with the act and passing the Sugar Act. It cut the tax on from 6 cents to 3 cents a gallon but it was now on all molasses, not just that used for rum.(Cook p.59-61). He also announced his determination to collect this new tax. This new law was a financial shock to the New England merchants involved in the Rum Trade.

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