Original Colonists of America
The original colonists of America believed in the right of revolution. They believed that the people had an obligation to revolt and become independent from their rulers, their rulers had become tyrants. They also believed that in these circumstances, the people must declare the causes which impelled them to the separation of Great Britain. When the colonists declared independence from Britain they listed several cases of abuse in the Declaration of Independence to prove to the world their reason to fight for independence was justified. Specifically, the colonists argued that Britain had prevented self-governance in the colonies, their rights, freedoms, and had begun to attempt to suppress the colonists by using physical force. However, King George was actually a just ruler, and oftentimes, it was the colonists who failed to see the rationale behind his decisions; therefore, the colonists fought against a non-existent tyranny, and the American Revolution was unjustifiable.
The Colonist Called these the Intolerable Acts, Up until the time of the Seven Years War (French-Indian War), the colonies were fairly independent and self-governing. The Proclamation Act of 1763 was one of the first mandates that the British Parliament forced upon the American colonists. The act created an invisible border along the Appalachian Mountains that the American colonists could not cross without having the permission of the British government. The goal was to limit immigration to the west until new agreements could be made with the Native Americans, who Britain wanted to prevent another war with and to protect business ventures such as the fur trade. This restriction came as a surprise to the American colonists, who felt that they deserved to settle this land after winning the war. To add insult to injury, the British Parliament, which was suffering from a huge amount of debt as a result of fighting the French, decided to tax the colonists to recoup their expense.
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The Sugar Act of 1764, also known as the Revenue Act, was the first attempt by the British Parliament to raise revenue from the colonists. This act was basically a tax on trade items that were brought into the colonies including sugar, tea, coffee, wine, etc. The Act also allowed British officials, without court approval, to take goods they believed to be smuggled. Merchants who were believed to have been smuggling were considered guilty until evidence proved they were innocent, and they could not take legal action when their goods were unethically taken. Later in 1764, Parliament passed the Currency Act as another way of lowering their debt. This Act banned paper money in the colonies since paper money did not have the same lasting value as non-paper money did. Both these Acts angered the American colonists, but it was the colonial leaders who were most upset because these Acts lowered the amount of money circulating in the colonies and limited some of their self-governing power. This started a propaganda war calling for “No taxation with representation” that helped fuel the fire that eventually became a revolution.
In 1765, as a way to further raise money, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act. Calling for stamps to be placed on almost all printed materials, including those produced in the American colonies, this tax “was the first direct tax Britain had ever placed on the colonists.” It was the Stamp Act that spurned a group that became known as the Sons of Liberty. Protests and riots broke out against the Stamp Act and a boycott of the stamps, and products imported from Britain helped to force Parliament to repeal the Act in 1766. In order to help enforce their Acts and have a stronger presence in the colonies, the Quartering Act was passed. This act not only made colonists pay more money for the protection Britain was giving them at the time, but it also allowed British soldiers to stay in the colonist’s houses, or in public buildings, with the colonists paying for their room and board.
Though they gave in a repealed the Stamp Act, Parliament asserted it’s power in the colonies by passing the Declaratory Act, reinforcing Britain’s right to enact laws governing the colonists; which they did almost immediately. In 1767, failing to understand the forces at work in the colonies, Britain enacted the Townshend Acts and found their exports to the colonies reduced yet again due to another boycott. The Townshend Acts included the Revenue Act of 1767, which again placed a tax on imported goods, such as paper, paint, tea. Much like the Sugar Act, the Townshend Acts “allowed officials to seize private property under certain circumstances without following due process.”
The resistance in the colonies grew even louder and stronger, and Britain’s response was to send additional forces to Boston, which further increased tension. Eventually, the tension boiled over, leading to a confrontation that killed five people. Colonial figures, such as Sam Adams and Paul Revere, used this event they called the Boston Massacre, to stir up anger against Britain. Other events such as the Gaspee Affair and the Boston Tea Party followed pushing King George to his limit. He decided that “The colonies must either submit or triumph!”
After the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed Coercive and Quebec Acts that essentially took power away from the colonists, especially in Massachusetts, by shutting down their ports, limiting their right to self-governance, and reestablishing the Quartering Act. These acts, “violated several traditional English rights, including the right to trial by a jury of one’s peers”The Quebec Act centralized government in Canada. After more than a decade of actions deemed unbearable by the
American colonists, these “Intolerable” Acts made them decide that enough was enough. The First Continental Congress, with delegates from all the colonies, except Georgia, met in Philadelphia in September of 1774. They adopted a resolution that opposed the “Intolerable” Acts and asserted their Declaration of Rights and Grievances; an exercise that ultimately laid the foundation for the Declaration of Independence. Although Seeming bad to the colonist the British saw it in a different perspective These criticisms were unwarranted though: some of the acts were actually intended to benefit the colonies, and the other acts were passed simply to ensure that Britain could maintain control. One of the acts that the colonists disagreed with was the Quartering Act, which allowed British troops to be billeted by colonists. This act was very reasonable. First of all, it was only passed because the colonists were paying so little tax that it was not nearly enough to cover the cost of a standing army, which was necessary to protect the colonists. In addition, Britain had already tried its best to minimize the inconvenience this act would have on the colonists. For example, the acts only allowed soldiers to be quartered in public buildings, not private homes. Also, in the 1774 act, Britain even dropped the stipulation that stated that colonists should provide food to the soldiers.
The next two Intolerable Acts were the Boston Port Bill and the Massachusetts Government Act, which temporarily closed the Boston Harbor and made various changes to the government system in Massachusetts. Once again, these acts were reasonable, given the circumstances. Firstly, they were passed only in response to the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre, and Britain was simply trying to prevent further, possibly more violent and larger, revolts, and to preserve the peace and good order. Secondly, the harbor was not really closed ships carrying essential goods were still allowed to dock, and the harbor would be reopened as soon as the colonists faced the consequences of their actions and repaid the British the value of the tea damaged in the Tea Party. Thirdly, while the Massachusetts Government Act did reduce the political power of the colonists, it was for good reason: clearly, the current system of government, where the colonists were quite powerful, wasn’t working. It had discouraged the promoting of internal welfare, peace, and good government, impede with the laws of Great Britain”, and most importantly, the previous system of government had led to open resistance to the execution of laws which actually taken place in the town of Boston, and the neighborhood. Britain was quite reasonable in concluding that if left unattended to, the rebellious spirit and unlawfulness could easily spread, and thus it was justified in taking some power. Lastly, the people still had a say: the lower elected house of the Massachusetts Assembly remained. The fourth act the colonists disagreed with was the Administration of Justice Act, which, in their minds, prevented them from prosecuting the British for certain crimes, and also gave Britain the power to try any colonist overseas. To the contrary, this act was simply trying to prevent miscarriages of justice. Firstly, it only applied to people in Massachusetts who were being tried for crimes occurring while they were suppressing riots, tumults, or other violent occurrences. In other words, this act hardly applied to the vast majority of the colonists. Furthermore, the ability to move trials to Britain was only added into the act, not to deliberately cause inconvenience to the colonists, but as a last resort, if the trial could not be properly held in Massachusetts. Lastly, even if colonists were transported overseas to participate in trials, in many cases, they would be compensated fairly.
Another act that the colonists disagreed with was the Quebec Act. Although this mostly only affected Quebec, it also gave much of the Ohio River Valley region to Quebec, which the colonists were angry with, as many had staked land claims there, and it also prevented westward expansion. However, this act also made sense: there were actually some French settlers living in the region, so it was reasonable for Quebec’s boundaries to be expanded to include them. Also, the fact that this act cut off westward expansion may have been a good thing, as it prevented potential conflicts with Natives living in that area. Lastly, Britain had passed the Navigation Act, which, while not usually considered an Intolerable Act, was an act that was similarly denounced by the colonists. This act was a mercantilist policy that placed restrictions on who the colonies could trade to, and how they would conduct trade. However, these acts were actually quite advantageous to the colonists. For example, because of a stipulation in the act that all ships used for trade be built in Britain or her colonies, the shipbuilding industry prospered. Also, the act created a stable and secure market for many manufacturers, and prices were fairly low, which benefited consumers. The colonists argued that the Intolerable Acts were great infringements on their rights and freedoms, but they failed to see that these acts were, in reality, reasonable and justified.
Lastly, the colonists argued that they were justified in becoming independent because Britain had resorted to using physical force against them, to try to intimidate them into complying with various laws and regulations. Specifically, the colonists accused the British of directly attacking them on several occasions, such as the Boston Massacre and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. In both cases though, the British were justified in attacking. In the Boston Massacre, a small group of British soldiers were up against an angry mob, were hopelessly outnumbered, and had fired in self-defense, only after one of the soldiers had been physically assaulted by a Bostonian. In the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the British were simply trying to prevent further conflict by confiscating weapons stores, and they were not planning to fight the colonists. Secondly, the colonists accused Britain of indirectly attacking them by encouraging people to fight against the colonists. For example, they accused Britain of unfairly persuading Native Americans to attack the colonists and encouraging slaves to revolt against their masters. However, the colonists were the first to start recruiting Native Americans’ support, and the British were simply doing the same, in self-defense. In addition, at the time, the British were actually trying to prevent battles between the Native Americans and the colonists by considering ending the tradition of giving weapons as gifts to the Indians and passing acts to prevent settlements in areas near the Native Americans. On the issue of encouraging slaves to fight against their masters and to join the British army, this was a perfectly reasonable move. The British were not physically visiting slaves and forcing them to join the army they were simply advising the slaves of their right to rebel against their masters if they felt that they were being grossly mistreated, the exact same right that the colonists themselves invoked. Finally, the colonists condemned Britain’s use of Hessians, or German mercenaries. However, these Hessians were simply used to supplement the British troops in battles and were no different from other troops. Despite the colonists’ beliefs, Britain had used force only when it was absolutely necessary, and oftentimes, it was the colonists that were provoking the attacks.
A revolution can only be justified if there is sufficient reason to prove that the people were indeed being ruled by a tyrant; without this reasoning, it is merely an irrational outburst of violence to be condemned. In the American Revolution, the colonists believed that they had been denied their fundamental rights as Englishmen. In reality though, not only had the colonists’ rights not been violated, but they had also been the beneficiaries of a king who had, time after time, looked out for their best interest. Therefore, the colonists’ reasons for declaring independence were groundless, and the American Revolution was unjustifiable.