Resistance, Rebellion, and Revolution (1750–1775) for AP US History (page 3)
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Summary: Tensions between the British and the French intensified in the 1740s; a result of this tension was the Seven Years War, in which colonial militias were involved. The French were defeated in this war, essentially ending their political influence on the Americas. During and after this war the British imposed a number of taxes and duties on their colonies, creating unrest. The Stamp Act created great resentment in the colonies. The results of this resentment included the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, the Boston Massacre of 1770, and the Boston Tea Party of 1773. The First Continental Congress met in 1774 and resolved that the colonies would resist efforts to tax them without their consent.
French and Indian War (1756–1763): also known as the Seven Years War, a conflict between the British and the French that also involved Native Americans and colonial militias. French defeat in this war greatly decreased their influence in the colonies.
Stamp Act (1765): imposed by the British, this act dictated that all legal documents in the colonies had to be issued on officially stamped paper. This act created strong resentment in the colonies and was later repealed.
Townshend Acts (1767): British legislation that forced colonies to pay duties on most goods coming from England; these duties were fiercely resisted and finally repealed in 1770.
Boston Massacre (1770): conflict between British soldiers and Boston civilians on March 5, 1770; five colonists were killed and six wounded.
Sons of Liberty: radical group that organized resistance against British policies in Boston in the 1760s and 1770s. This was the group that organized the Boston Tea Party.
Committees of Correspondence: created first in Massachusetts and then in other colonies, these groups circulated grievances against the British to towns within their colonies.
Boston Tea Party (1773): in response to British taxes on tea, Boston radicals disguised as Native Americans threw 350 chests of tea into Boston harbor on December 16, 1773.
First Continental Congress (1774): meeting in Philadelphia at which colonists vowed to resist further efforts to tax them without their consent.
Problems on the Frontier
An energetic traveler going west of the Appalachian Mountains in 1750 would discover a land inhabited by Native American tribes who had no desire to release their territory to colonial or European settlers. The Iroquois and other tribes of the region had traded and allied with both the English and the French, depending on who offered the best "deal" at the time.
Beginning in the 1740s, English and French interests in this region began to come into conflict. Land speculators from Virginia and other colonies began to acquire land in the Ohio Valley, and they tried to broker further treaties with Native Americans who resided there. French colonial officials viewed this with alarm, as their ultimate aim was to connect Canada and Louisiana with a series of forts and settlements through much of the same region.
In 1754, delegates from seven northern and middle colonies met at the Albany Congress, at which the colonies attempted to coordinate their policies concerning further westward settlement and concerning Native Americans. While the representatives couldn't agree on several main points, Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia sent a young militia officer to attempt to stop the French construction of a fort at what is now the city of Pittsburgh. The young officer, George Washington, was defeated in battle there. Several Native American tribes, noting the incompetence of Washington and the colonial army, decided to cast their lot with the French. After hearing of this defeat in early 1756, the British sent a seasoned general, Edward Braddock, to stop the French construction of Fort Duquesne. Braddock's army was routed by the French, and he was killed in the battle. When London heard of this, war was officially declared against the French. This was the beginning of the Seven Years War (called the French and Indian War in American textbooks).
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."
More Protest: The Townshend Acts
In 1766, George III appointed the aging and infirm William Pitt as prime minister. III health made him unable to concentrate on his duties concerning the colonies. As a result, Charles Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had a large hand in creating policy concerning the American colonies. Townshend decided to follow the policies of Grenville and try to extract more income for the government from colonial trade. In 1767, he proposed new duties on glass, paper, and tea. These Townshend Acts were different from previous duties on colonial trade; these were for goods produced in Britain. In addition, income from these acts would be used to pay the salaries of certain ranks of British officials in the colonies; colonial assemblies had always authorized these salaries. Townshend also created new courts in the colonies, the Admiralty courts, to try smuggling cases and ordered British soldiers to be stationed in major port cities (to hopefully prevent the protests that had followed the Stamp Act).
The opposition to the Townshend Acts in the colonies was immediate and sustained. Newspaper editorials and pamphlets renounced the acts with vehemence. John Dickinson from Pennsylvania best expressed the colonial position in his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1767). Dickinson said that Parliament had the right to regulate colonial trade, but not to use that power to raise revenue. By this argument, only duties used to control trade or regulate the affairs of the empire were legal. Benjamin Franklin expressed a different view of the situation. Franklin stated that "Either Parliament has the power to make all laws for us, or Parliament has the power to make no laws for us; and I think the arguments for the latter more numerous and weighty than those of the former."
In early 1768, Samuel Adams in Massachusetts composed a document opposing the Townshend Acts, proclaiming that "taxation without representation is tyranny." The Massachusetts Assembly voted to approve this document and send it along to other colonial assemblies for approval. The royal governor stated that this Circular Letter was a form of sedition, and Parliament suggested abolishing the assemblies that had approved it. Yet, similar resolutions were passed in five other colonies. Boycotting of British goods took place again to protest the Townshend Acts. In 1770, a new prime minister came to power in Britain, Lord North. North repealed all the Townshend Acts except the tax on tea; the tea tax remained to remind the colonists that the British had the right to collect such taxes if they desired to.
Continued Tension in Massachusetts
British customs officials and merchants in Massachusetts continued to clash over the smuggling of goods into Boston harbor. In 1768, officials seized a vessel belonging to a wellknown smuggler, John Hancock; several days later, several customs officials were roughed up. As a result, two regiments of regular British soldiers were assigned to the city. Tension increased notably in Boston; many local workers became incensed when, in their off-duty hours, British soldiers took up jobs that had previously been held by Bostonians. Soldiers were taunted on a regular basis. On March 5, 1770, the event that became known as the Boston Massacre took place. A confrontation occurred, with laborers throwing snowballs filled with rocks at the soldiers. The soldiers, acting against orders, finally shot into the crowd, killing five men and wounding eight. Sam Adams and others made much of the "massacre," yet members of the Sons of Liberty opposed uncontrolled violence. Seven soldiers were later put on trial for the "massacre"; five were acquitted, and two were branded on their thumbs and then freed.
The Calm Before the Storm: 1770–1773
There was an apparent calm in relations between the British and the colonies between 1770 and 1773. Import duties were collected on a regular basis. The tea tax was still in effect; some colonists boycotted British tea, but some drank it openly. Resistance again occurred first in Massachusetts. Samuel Adams established a Committee of Correspondence in Boston. Similar groups were created throughout Massachusetts, Virginia, and other colonies as well. These groups were designed to share information on British activities in the Americas, as well as to share details of demonstrations, protests, and so on. Some historians argue that these committees were the first permanent machinery of protest in the colonies.
The Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party occurred because of an effort by the British government to save the near-bankrupt East India Tea Company. American boycotts and smuggled Dutch tea had hurt this company; they asked the government for permission to sell their tea directly to the American colonies without going through English merchants as middlemen. The old tax on tea would remain, but tea would now be cheaper to purchase for the colonists. Lord North and Parliament approved the passage of the Tea Act that would legalize these changes.
Colonial leaders were furious. Some pointed out that this measure reaffirmed that Parliament could tax the colonies; others feared a monopoly of the East India Company on all colonial trade. In the fall of 1773, crowds prevented tea from being unloaded in several port cities. Predictably, Boston was the city where resistance was the strongest. On December 16, 1773, in an event called the Boston Tea Party, 65 men dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded the tea ships and dumped nearly 350 chests of tea in the harbor.
The Intolerable Acts
The British were extremely quick to act in punishing the colonists. The Intolerable Actsall took effect by May of 1774. The port of Boston was closed except for military ships and ships specifically permitted by British customs officials. The upper house of the Massachusetts Assembly would now be appointed by the king instead of being elected by the lower house. Town meetings could not be held without the governor's consent, and the Quartering Act was again put into effect. Many concerned citizens in other colonies feared that similar actions could easily occur elsewhere. As a result, several colonial legislatures suggested a meeting of representatives from all the colonies to discuss the situation in Massachusetts. The passage of the Quebec Act by the British further alarmed many colonial leaders. Among other things, this act increased the religious freedom of French Catholics. To many Protestants in the colonies, Catholicism was easily equated with the absolutist French monarchy of the eighteenth century.
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