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British Military Measures

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In the 1770s, the French and Indian War had just ended and Britain was in massive debt. Britain, being the mother country, placed numerous taxes and acts into place on its child, the colonies, to pay the debt as per mercantilism. The colonists were furious because they believed they had nothing to do with the war and were just dragged in; hence they should not have to help pay the debt. The British military measures and the restriction of civil liberties were really important factors in prompting the Americans to rebel in 1776, although the Parliamentary taxation prompted them to rebel the most.

First, Parliamentary taxation prompted the Americans to rebel the most. The Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the Townshend Duties were the primary taxes and duties that ultimately led the colonists to rebel. The Sugar Act of 1764 was a tax designed to eliminate French and Spanish trade by raising duties on molasses. The act was designed with the intent of raising money to pay one-fifth of the military expenses in North America brought on by the French and Indian War. The Sugar Act raised the tax on molasses and sugar from the amount they initially taxed in the Molasses Act of 1733. The tax came to be because Britain not only wanted to make up for the money she had been losing to the Triangular Trade, but also in order to make money for the crown. The significance of the Sugar Act is that it infuriated colonists over the increased tax on imported sweeteners.

The Stamp Act of 1765 was a tax on all printed works. It forced Americans to have a stamp affixed to newspapers, all legal documents, and even Bibles. This act angered many colonists because it was an internal tax, meaning it affected everyone. Being an internal tax made the effects much broader than they would have been if the tax were external, or only applied to a specific group of people like merchants. However, everyone was subject to it. The colonists established the Stamp Act Congress and created the Virginia Resolves to demand its repeal. The significance of the Stamp Act crisis is that it was the first event that united all of the colonies in their resistance to parliamentary authority and taxation without representation.

The Townshend Duties of 1766 were various taxes on lead, paint, paper, and tea. Colonists felt that the increase in taxes was an abuse of Parliament. The significance of the Townshend Duties was that John Dickinson wrote Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania. Dickinson’s book rekindled interest in the issue of taxation without representation and spread the belief that small taxes, such as the Townshend Duties, were a precedent for even larger taxes. Dickinson also inspired Samuel Adams to write the Massachusetts Circular Letter in 1768, which explained there was no difference between internal taxes and external taxes. Hence, Parliamentary taxation infuriated the colonists greatly.

The restriction of civil liberties prompted the Americans to rebel for a good reason. Most, if not all, of the colonists who moved to the colonies were looking for freedom and a new start of life. Americans were extremely angry when the British took these rights away. As an effect of the French and Indian War, Britain enforced their control over the colonies by enforcing the Navigation Acts. Once the navigation acts were enforced, the Americans were furious because they felt this move was stifling their economic growth and preventing them from making more money. Also, Britain shut down Boston’s port, reduced their powers of self-government, and permitted royal officers to be tried in other colonies or England for crimes they had been accused of in the Intolerable or Coercive acts of 1774.

The Intolerable acts were a result of the Boston Tea Party, which was a result of the Tea Act of 1773 (an act that gave the East India Co. an exclusive monopoly on tea thus eliminating the middleman, colonial merchants). The Quartering Act or Mutiny Act of 1765 forced colonists to provide food and shelter for the British troops. The troops were stationed in Massachusetts to protect the colonists from French and Indian attacks and also defend the frontiers. The colonists believed this invaded their privacy and also hurt their rights because the colonists did not have any choice but to accept the soldiers into their home. They didn’t have a choice because the New York assembly had been disbanded in 1767 due to the colonists’ defiance of the Mutiny Act. Colonists took their rights very seriously and were willing to go to extreme measures to defeat the chance of them being taken away.

Finally, British military measures enraged the colonists, prompting them to rebel in 1776. After the Townshend Duties were repealed (except for the tax on tea), colonists in Boston harassed the new board of customs commissioners to the point where the British government had to place four British troops inside the city. The British soldiers competed with colonists in many things, such as jobs. In 1770, a mob of dockworkers began to throw rocks at the guards at the customs house. Captain Thomas Preston lined up his men in front of the building for protection. In the confusion, five men were killed, among them Crispus Attucks. Colonists considered the Boston Massacre a symbol of British oppression and brutality. Americans were trying to expand and the oppression from the British angered them. Three years later, in 1773, colonists in Massachusetts protested against the British in the Boston Tea Party by dumping tea overboard. This was a result of the Tea Act.

The Tea Act enraged merchants because they were cut out of the deal, meaning the company sold the tea directly to the colonists without a middleman (colonial merchants). When the British were informed about the Boston Tea Party, Lord North punished Boston by enforcing the Coercive Acts. The Coercive Acts closed the port of Boston, allowed trials to be transferred to other countries, amended the state charter, and quartered British troops in Boston at the colonists’ expense. This angered the colonists because they had to provide quarters for the ones whose only purpose was to control the colonists’ rights. The Lexington Green and Concord events of 1775 encouraged the colonists to rebel even more.

In April of 1775, General Thomas Gage ordered his men to seize weapons and capture rebels (John Hancock and Samuel Adams) in Concord. As the British advanced, a group of minutemen, forewarned by William Dawes and Paul Revere, assembled in Lexington to stop the British in their tracks. The minutemen were forced to retreat. This allowed the British a way into Concord but the minutemen mustered up the strength to force the British to retreat, thus winning the Lexington Green battle. Guerilla tactics played a large role in the victory. This very battle started the Revolutionary War. Many Americans claimed the British fired the first, “shot heard around the world,” thus rallying numerous rebels all over the colonies.

By analyzing the British military measures, the restriction of civil liberties, and Parliamentary taxes the British placed upon the colonies, one can conclude that the Parliamentary taxation prompted the colonists to rebel the most. Parliamentary taxation was the foundation upon which the military measures and restriction of civil liberties were built. The Parliamentary tax angered the colonists, which caused them to rebel, thus causing the British to tighten their control over the colonists, which, as a result, caused them to rebel even more and eventually seek independence. The taxation factors, military factors, and liberty factors went hand-in-hand and ultimately led to the creation of a new, developing country which would very soon flourish after going through its fair share of problems.


American History a Survey by Alan Brinkley

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