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Many people have the misconception that the American Revolution occurred because British colonists did not want to be British citizens any longer. This may have been the case for a select few, but many British colonists desired to maintain their status as British colonists and citizens. The foremost reason that the colonists began protests, boycotts, and petitions against the British was because they believed their innate rights as British citizens were being violated.
The American Revolution occurred due to a chain of events and a complex set of intertwined reasons.One of the reasons that the colonists wanted to separate from Britain was that people in the colonies had begun to see themselves as small separate nations such as North Carolinians, Virginians, Pennsylvanians, and on goes the list. This started to give them an identity separate of Britain, but in many ways the colonists still considered themselves to be British. Since the colonists continued to see themselves as British, it made little impact that the people in each colony were developing new identities.
Another factor that contributed to the American Revolution would be tax collectors. Many people fled to the colonies because of debt, and tax collectors followed to collect on debts that these people owed them. This reason is given a little more weight than it should because the majority of the population was not first or second generation colonists by the mid eighteenth century. Tax collectors would not be able to collect on individuals if surnames changed or the surname died. Royal governors are another small reason that people would want to be free of British rule as they were a constant reminder of British rule over the colonies. However, this reason does not affect the outcome because the legislature that had the power of the purse was controlled by the colonists. The governor rarely intervened with political affairs that would incense the colonists, because the legislature controlled when and how the governor would be paid.
These reasons all supplied the fuel to start the American Revolution, but the spark that began it was the taxation of the colonies.The biggest reason that colonists were becoming disgruntled with their mother country, Britain, was Britain’s heavy debts that Britain had accumulated while fighting wars with France which needed to be alleviated. As with all governments, Britain had to tax its people to procure the funds needed to pay these debts. Britain saw their colonies as thousands of British citizens that they had not taxed satisfactorily. After realizing this, Britain imposed several new taxes on goods imported and exported to and from the colonies. The colonists were livid over the new taxes. After all, Britain had practiced salutary neglect for almost 100 years.
Salutary neglect is the practice of leaving one’s foreign acquisitions to their own devices with little to no interference of their government, social, or economic aspects. The colonists immediately began to petition these new taxes. Their logic: “No taxation without representation.”In contrast to Britain, the colonists believed in direct representation which is representation in government by having someone from a certain region represent that area. British government or Parliament believed in virtual representation which is representation in government by having someone represent everyone regardless of where that person is from originally. The colonists argued that the flaw with virtual representation was that someone who represented the colonists, but was not a colonist would not understand the plights and concerns of the colonists. As a result of Parliament refusing to permit the colonists direct representation in Parliament, the colonists took drastic action.In response to the heavy British taxes on ink, paper, and tea, the colonists boycotted against those products and gave more reasons for the war to commence. The colonists even went so far as to openly damage those goods which were taxed most heavily. A group of colonists known as the Sons of Liberty were colonists who wanted to be freed from the British taxes. The Sons of Liberty dumped hundreds of crates of tea into Boston harbor during the winter of 1773, which later became known as the Boston Tea Party. The Sons of Liberty also sold goods that were secretly smuggled into the colonies which escaped the British taxes that were supposed to be enforced on those products.
These reasons elevated the restrictions that the British imposed upon the colonists and led to more outright defiance from the colonists and more reasons to begin a war. Although the colonists possessed an uncharacteristically high toleration of abuse, the British finally gave a reason for the colonists to retaliate. In the early spring of 1775, the colonists could take no more. The British went after some of the leaders that headed the Sons of Liberty. These leaders were stationed in Lexington and Concord. The British arrived to these two towns with expectations of the colonists delivering the men they desired to them, but they encountered a very different spectacle. When the British arrived, the towns’ militias were lined outside of the towns. Nobody knows who fired the first shot, but either way, the rebellion against Britain had begun. The colonists had taken enough of the British oppression of their rights, their tax collectors, their governors, and their king.
On the Fourth of July, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed to officially declare war on Britain and to catalogue the reasons for going to war with Britain. This document validated the colonists’ actions to secede from the British Empire and was the effect of how the British government had treated them. The document gave a purpose to the war that the colonists were fighting with Britain. The colonists believed that the British government was becoming oppressive and tyrannical to them. As said in the Declaration of Independence:We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness (“Declaration of Independence” US History). The colonists wrote this into the Declaration of Independence to justify their separation because the colonists felt oppressed and believed their rights had been violated.
They listed in the Declaration of Independence a number of reasons why they should be emancipated from British rule. Most of those reasons pertain to laws and taxation that Britain placed upon the colonies without the consent of the colonies. Other reasons such as trade and placing standing armies in cities are cited. The biggest reason that the American Revolution began was because of the taxation and the laws enforced upon the colonists without their consent and their lack of representation in Parliament.Although the American Revolution can be said to have many different reasons, the major reason was because of the taxation of the colonies. Minor reasons gave an individual his own personal motive for wanting to rid the colonies of British rule, but every colonist was taxed and oppressed by the British government. To list each reason that the colonists had to start a war with Britain would be impossible, but the main, igniting reason was that the British taxed and oppressed the colonists. Without the taxation of the colonists, the American Revolution would never have begun, and perhaps the world today would look very differently.
“British Taxes in Colonial America.” American Firearms. N.p., 7 July 2011. Web. 29 Sept. 2011.
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