The Effect of the Enlightenment on the World Today
How could, a simple thing like tea, or stamps lead to a Revolution? The American Revolution was a political rebellion in which the American colonists overthrew their Britain, their Motherland due to a series of violations to their rights. The revolution took place all across America, from 1775 to 1783. The two sides of the revolution were the British and the American colonists, who were often known as the Patriots.
The American Revolution was sparked by the Stamp and Sugar Acts, the Boston Tea Party and finally, the Enlightenment idea of Social Contract. Firstly, the Stamp and Sugar Acts was one of the reasons the American Revolution occurred. Following the Seven Years of war, Britain was dramatically indebted. It had left Britain with a national debt of more than 140 million pounds. They also felt that because the French had succeeded the people in the colonies could not be kept in control. So they issued the Proclamation of 1763, which was a decree which prohibited colonists from settling anywhere further west than the Appalachians.
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The colonists thought the restrictions were unfair and mostly ignored them. However, in order for Britain to increase their number of troops stationed along the new frontier, they needed to pay around 320,00 pounds a year. To get this money and to help repay their national debt, they inflicted the Sugar Act, which required citizens of colonies to pay taxes on sugar, a popular good. They also imposed the Stamp Act, which required all legal documents and things such as cards in the colonies to have a tax stamp. These restrictions raged people in colonies. A group was formed of people who strongly didn’t agree with the restrictions Britain was putting on them, they called themselves the Patriots. The passing of these acts resulted in a great deal of protest in the colonies. People called them, “unconstitutional and “without precedent and they were very upset that the acts had been passed without giving them a say. They protested by boycotting British taxed goods, which was very effective. The boycott inspired British business leaders to petition the acts, pointing out that the acts not only made colonists refuse to import British goods, but also made them unable to pay back nearly five million pounds they owed British suppliers.
Next, it made Pitt, make a statement suggesting repealing the acts. These statements helped to motivate the government to repeal the act. The other way that colonists protested these acts was by violently destroying the home of the collecting taxes agent, Andrew Oliver and attacking many tax collectors and supporters of the British. The seeds of anger these Acts planted was only the beginning of what would later be a Revolution. Clearly, the passing of them had a great effect on the people in the colonies, and therefore it proves that these Acts were one of the main reasons the Revolution transpired. Secondly, the Boston Tea Party helped spark the American Revolution. In the 1770s one of the most valuable goods in the Western world was tea, as it was new and thought to be easy to sell. However, by 1773, a lack of sales left the British East India Company with a surplus of tea of over 17 million pounds, left in warehouses rotting. The British East India Company sought a solution, finally turning to the American colonies.
Usually, British Tea merchants sold to American traders in London at a markup, who would then sell to the American colonies. However, the British Government decided, to remove the ‘middle man’ which was the American merchants, and just directly ship the tea over to America at a lower cost. The British figured that the Tea Act would result in making the colonial people happy because they could purchase less expensive tea, however, the Patriots saw the act as unfair, believing it gave an unfair advantage to the British East Indian Company making it unfair to the American colonial merchants. A few years before this change had been made, however, the British passed the Townshend Duties which were new taxes the British government put on the colonies for the import of; glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea. These acts received major backlash ending in them all being repealed other than the tax on tea.
This also angered the colonists and helped lead to what is now known as the Boston Tea Party. On December 16th, 1773, between 6 p.m and 9 p.m it is documented that over 116 colonists dressed up as Mohawk Indians. boarded a ship filled with tea, in Boston Harbor and threw 342 chests of tea overboard to protest the unfair acts and taxes being placed on them. It is estimated that the crates of tea thrown into the water cost over 10,000 pounds. This act of defiance to the British was certainly a turning point that helped lead to the Revolution. It not only raged the British, causing them to double down and place stricter Acts but it also brought support from the colonies to the Patriots, encouraging each sides anger increase.
In conclusion, the Boston Tea Party was a crucial factor that led and caused the American Revolution. Thirdly, Enlightenment ideas helped cause the Revolution. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Enlightenment began and towards the end of the 18th century, the American Revolution occurred. Due to their overlapping time periods and similar issues, the American Revolution was filled with references to the Enlightenment. A year after the American Revolution, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was finalized. The Declaration of Independence was a document which in short, liberated America from their loyalties to and connection with Britain. The Declaration of Independence stated that all people are born equal, and for that, they deserve standard rights.
Among these basic rights, they have the right to life and freedom and the right to seek happiness in the way they choose. It then states that, in order for these rights to be protected, governments are set into place, and that governments get their power from their people. Next, it stated that if people believe their rights are not being protected, they can organize their own government, in a way that does protect these rights. This idea, that the government should protect the rights of their people and if not people should be able to revolt is an idea which was very popular during the Enlightenment and was and is still, known as ‘Social Contract.’ The idea was introduced by John Locke but was elaborated on by many, famously including Jean-Jaques Rosseau.
In fact, Rousseau’s, most famous piece of writing was called, “The Social Contract and was published in 1762, only 14 years apart from when the Declaration of Independence was published. This shows the likelihood that the Declaration of Independence was partly inspired by the Enlightenment idea of Social Contract. The whole reason the American colonists liberated themselves from Britain was that the British were violated their rights, therefore, their Social Contracts. To conclude, as shown in the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution was partly sparked by the Enlightenment idea of Social Contract.
In conclusion, the leading factors of what caused the American Revolution are Stamp and Sugar Acts, the Boston Tea Party and finally, the Enlightenment idea of Social Contract. However, it is important to understand that the American Revolution did not occur in one night, however, it was a build up of anger and tension between the British and the American colonists. It can still be said, however, that the Stamp and Sugar Acts, were what helped begin the colonist’s anger, the Boston Tea Party was an action to their anger, and the Enlightenment idea of Social Contract inspired their anger. So finally, all in all, it can be argued that Stamp and Sugar Acts, the Boston Tea Party and, the Enlightenment idea of Social Contract were all factors of what eventually sparked the American Revolution.