Resistance, Rebellion, and Revolution (1750–1775) for AP US History (page 2)

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Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Additional Conflicts Between the British and Their Colonial "Allies"

The war went very badly for the British and the colonial Americans in 1756 and 1757. Much of New York was captured by the French, and even the western New England territories appeared to be in jeopardy. Other than the Iroquois, most Native American tribes sided with the French. The British finally put the war in the hands of William Pitt, who sent nearly 25,000 troops to the Americas to fight against the French. The British had had little luck in convincing the colonies to supply many men or much material to the war effort. To get the support of the colonies, Pitt agreed to reimburse them for expenses during the war and put the recruiting of troops totally in local hands (Pitt's willingness to incur large debts for Great Britain to finance the war effort should be noted). As a result, a colonial army of nearly 24,000 joined with the British army to battle the French. The French stronghold at Quebec was defeated in 1759, and Montreal was taken one year later.

The Treaty of Paris, ending the French and Indian War effectively in 1763, also ended French influence in the Americas. Most French territory in the New World was given to the British, who now controlled over half of the continent of North America. France also gave Spain (its ally in the war) the Louisiana territory west of the Mississippi River.

The American colonists and the British both shared a sense of victory in 1763, yet resentments festered between the two. The colonists resented the patronizing attitude that the British had toward them; in addition, many British soldiers had been quartered in the homes of colonists without compensation. Many colonial soldiers viewed with horror the harsh punishments given to British soldiers for trivial infractions. The British felt that the colonists never did their fair share in the war; they also noted that some colonists continued to trade with the French during the first two years of the war.

The Policies of George Grenville

George II died in 1760 and was succeeded by his grandson, George III. George III never exhibited even average political skills and was more than willing to give his ministers (whom he frequently replaced) a large amount of political power. In 1763, he selected George Grenville as prime minister.

Grenville faced a difficult financial task. Great Britain had great debt, largely because of the lengthy wars that had taken place both on the European continent and in the colonies. British citizens were already very heavily taxed. Grenville felt that one way to relieve the financial burden facing the Crown would be for the American colonists to pay a greater share for colonial administration. Grenville was convinced that Britain should be making more money than it was in the Americas; he was personally disturbed by the illegal trading carried out by colonists during the Seven Years War.

Grenville took measures to "reform" the trading relationship between Britain and the Americas. The Currency Act of 1764 made it illegal to print paper money in the colonies. Because of the lack of hard currency in the colonies, the impact of this bill was significant. The Sugar Act of the same year conceded that the colonies were importing large amounts of French molasses, but it increased the penalties for colonial smuggling and ensured that colonists would pay the British a duty for all molasses brought into the colonies. In the years after the Seven Years War, colonial economies were already suffering from depression; the Grenville Acts only served to make that depression worse.

Debate over the reforms of Grenville appeared in many colonial newspapers, with many editorials pondering the proper relationship between decisions made in Great Britain and the American colonies.

A Sense of Crisis: The Stamp Act

The act proposed by Grenville that created the greatest furor in the colonies was the Stamp Act. This act would require a purchased stamp on virtually all printed material purchased in the colonies: newspapers, wills, dice, official documents, and countless other written documents would require this stamp. This was controversial in the colonies because this was the first time that Parliament would directly tax the colonies; before this, all taxation was self-imposed. Grenville's purpose was twofold: the Stamp Act would raise needed revenue and would uphold "the right of Parliament to lay an internal tax upon the colonies."

For many colonists, the final straw was the Quartering Act, which insisted that colonial governments provide food and accommodations for British troops stationed in the colonies.

In several colonies, such as Massachusetts, reaction against the Stamp Act was swift. During July of 1765, the Sons of Liberty was created in Boston, led by Samuel Adams. Demonstrations by this group forced the stamp agent in Massachusetts, Andrew Oliver, to resign. Similar outbursts in other colonies forced stamp agents to resign. Some politicians also began to speak in state assemblies against the act. Patrick Henry proclaimed in the Virginia Houses of Burgesses that the act demonstrated the tyranny of George III; several members of the assembly demanded that he be arrested for treason. James Otis from Massachusetts and Benjamin Franklin from Philadelphia both proposed that the colonists be directly represented in the British Parliament. In October of 1765, nine colonies met together at the Stamp Act Congress, where representatives reaffirmed the principle that taxation of the colonies be imposed only from within the colonies.

The Repeal of the Stamp Act

The uproar from the colonies may have helped the British Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act. However, the real pressure for repeal came from British merchants, who feared the act would destroy the profits they made by trading with the colonies. Economic boycotts were threatened in numerous colonies. Lord Rockingham, the new prime minister, urged repeal of the bill not for philosophical but for economic and political reasons. Celebration occurred in many colonies when news of the repeal came from Britain. These celebrations became muted when word arrived that Parliament had also passed a Declaratory Act, which stated that Parliament had the right to tax and pass legislation regarding the colonies "in all cases whatsoever."

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