No one in 1763 consciously made their mind up on fighting for independence it just happened. What Americans came to believe to be common sense in 1776 would have been thought of as madness or treason just a decade before. The bonds of loyalty that had glued the British Empire were dissolving slowly. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that the confrontations of this period seem to have led to the Revolution.
The men and women who lived through these difficult years did not know what the future would bring. At several points British rulers and American colonists could have compromised. They could have attempted in some ways to ease growing tensions. Their failure to do so was the result of thousands of separate decisions, errors and misunderstandings. The Revolution was a complex series of events, full of unexpected turns, extraordinary creativity and great personal sacrifice (Bailyn, 1967).
In 1760 George the III, only 22 was given the ultimate responsibility for preserving the empire. In the public eye they praised the new monarch, but in private they expressed great concern. The king had led a very sheltered life that lacked many of lifes experiences. He had not gotten a good education, but had an aptitude for mechanical ability. He was basically considered stupid and slow witted. He had a difficult time in grasping the concept of imagination, generosity and wisdom during a difficult period in history.
He decided to play an aggressive role in government this did not sit well with Englands political leaders. For decades a powerful group of men who called themselves Whigs had set policy and controlled patronage. George the II was ok with this but when George the III came into power he dissolved this relationship. He placed people in charge that had absolutely no political knowledge and the only relationship for the job would have been just to have known someone. The Earl of Bute was selected as chief minister and this totally outraged the Whigs. They accused George of trying to instill a personal Stuart monarchy that was free from traditional constitutional restraints (Morgan & Morgan, 1953).
The king does not bear the sole blame for Englands loss of the empire in America. The members of Parliament, the men who actually drafted the statutes that drove a wedge between the colonists and the mother country, failed to respond creatively to the challenges of events. With rare exception, they clung to the principle of parliamentary sovereignty and when Americans questioned whether that legislative body in London should govern colonial affairs, parliamentary spokesmen provided no constructive grounds for compromise. The establishment of a separate American commonwealth bound to British only by commerce and common allegiance to the monarch received no support in the House of Commons, this a huge problem for American colonialist (Higginbotham, 1971).
Parliaments attitude was in part a product of ignorance. Few men active in English government had visited America. For those who attempted to follow colonial affairs did not get accurate information for the best decisions. Getting any kind of mail or information took a four week boat trip. To get a response took about three months. The result of the lag in communication between England and America became rumors that passed for factual events and a misunderstanding is the influence parliament took for the formulation of colonial policy. At the end of the French and Indian War, is seemed impossible that the colonists would challenge the supremacy of Parliament. But the crisis in imperial relations that soon developed forced the Americans first to define and then to defend principles that were rooted deeply in the colonial political culture (Morgan & Morgan, 1953).
For more than a century, the colonists ideas about their role within the British Empire had remained a vague bundle of assumptions about personal liberties, property rights, and representative institutions. By 1763 certain fundamental American beliefs had become clear. Colonists affirmed the importance of representative government. They also accepted the authority of local assemblies to tax their constituents.
To declare that the House of Commons in London enjoyed the same right made no sense to them. Parliament was too far and its members could not possibly understand what American interests were. Political thought in the colonies contained a strong moral component, one that British rulers and American Loyalists never fully understood. The origins of this religious perspective on civil government are difficult to locate with precision (Bailyn, 1967).
The Great Awakening raised mens and womens consciousness of an obligation to conduct themselves according to scripture in public as well as in private. At the same time many Americans who were not swept up by the evangelical fervor adopted the commonwealthman tradition. Insistence on public virtue such as sacrifice of self-interest to the public good became the dominant theme of revolutionary political writing. Media took center stage, colonial newspapers spread the word and ideals throughout the new nation and this was true for the northern part of the country were most were literate.
Following the Seven Years War more than seven thousand British troops, members of the regular army remained in North America. Their alleged purpose was to protect Indians from predatory frontiersmen and to preserve order in the newly conquered territories of Florida and Quebec. But no one person in the British government actually made the decision to keep an army in the colonies.
This unexpected circumstance occurred because various officials in London assumed that someone else had issued the order and what was in facet a no decision resulted in bureaucratic confusion and inertia that provided the initial catalyst for Anglo-American hostility. The war had saddled Britain with a huge national debt. It cost quite a lot to maintain scattered troops and military posts on the American frontier. This burden weighed heavily on the English taxpayers and this made government officials search for different avenues to gain revenue (Shy, 1976).
Meanwhile back in America the colonialist was beginning to believe that the revenues spent on the army were too high, because of the inadequacies of the troops. Another factor that played into the make up of the war was that colonialists wanted to move west of the Appalachian Mountains and British refused. The colonialist saw this to be the armys fault and a problem stopping them from economic development. It was soon after this that George Grenville proposed the first bill that would tax the colonialist to pay for the military there in the states, the Sugar Act. This was soon by the Stamp Act, Quartering Act, Declaratory Act, Townshend Revenue Act, Tea Act, Coercive Acts and the Prohibitory Act. The last being what drives the Continental congress closer to a decision for independence (Morgan & Morgan, 1953).
The war lasted longer than anyone had predicted in 1776. While the nation won its independence, many Americans paid a terrible price. Indeed, a large number of men and women decided that however much they had loved colonial society they could not accept the new government. Over one hundred thousand men and women permanently left America. Americans turned their attentions to the business of building a new republic.
Congress appointed a delegation to negotiate a peace treaty. According to their official instructions, they were to insist only upon the recognition of the independence of the United States. The peacemakers drove a remarkable bargain to say the least, a much better one than Congress could have expected. The preliminary agreement signed on September 3, 1783 guaranteed the independence of the United States and it also transferred all the territory east of the Mississippi River, except Florida which would remain under Spanish rule, to the new Republic (Rankin, 1964).
The American people had waged war against the most powerful nation in Europe and come out victorious. The treaty marked the end of a colonial rebellion, but it left them to work out their new country. Many new questions would need to be answered and through difficult times were worked out to what we have today in America. Many referred to the American Revolution as a play with many acts that led up to its historical standing.
Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge: Harvard University press, (1967).
Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence. New York: MacMillian, (1971).
Morgan, Edmund S., & Morgan, Helen M. The Stamp Act Crisis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, (1953).
Rankin, Hugh F. The American Revolution. New York: Putnam, (1964).
Shy, John. A People Numerous and Armed. New York: Oxford Press, (1976).