Where the colonist justified in waging war and breaking away from Britain?
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Thomas Whately, advisor to George Grenville, the British chancellor of the Exchequer, was correct by saying in Document 1, “We are not yet recovered from a war solely fought for their protection.” Whately was referring to the French and Indian War (1754-1763). This war indeed cost Britain much, and I do believe the colonists were greatful. However, Britain, after 1763, did not allow the colonists to move west. The colonies were increasing by becoming crowded. New taxes angered them as well. Not being represented in Parliament was tyranny. “Taxation without Representation” was the battle cry. The Stamp Act of 1765 started it all. Every paper, from playing cards to legal documents were taxed. Document 2 refers to this tax as well as the Townsend Act which required the colonists to pay a tax on all British goods. According to Document 2, this taxes purpose was for simply “Levying money upon us”. Still, this tax like the Stamp Act, was levied without representation in Parliament. Colonists boycotted British goods in favor of their own manufactured goods. The 13 colonies were gradually becoming aware of self-government. Men like Patrick Henry and John Dickinson considered these taxes unconstitutional. They voiced their opinions openly.
Townsend’s death put an end to his program and Lord North took over as chancellor of the exchequer. He repealed the taxes, except the one on tea. Still, the colonies resented the fact that they had no representation in Parliament and tension between the British soldiers and colonists grew. Fights and altercations between the two intensified. It came to head on March 5, 1770-The Boston Massacre. Boston became the hotbed of the Revolution. Outside the Customs House, soldiers and colonists encountered one another. No one, till this very day is quite sure what really happened. We only know that several British soldiers fired into the crowd and five colonists lay dead. This hazy incident, certainly sparked by panic and confusion, transformed into a massacre, which was exaggerated by painters and newspapers throughout colonies.
The Committees of Correspondence, formed in 1774, was an avenue by which each colony wrote to one another informing each other of events taking place in each colony. Samuel Adams led the way. John Adams also believed in keeping people aware of what was happening. The Committee of Correspondence demonstrated the power of writing and organizing.
On December 16, 1773, British colonists dumped the tea from the East India Company, overboard into Boston Harbor. Although the tea was much cheaper because no middleman was involved, the ploy had the opposite effect. The colonists, by now, were convinced that the British government was out to make slaves of them as stated in Document 5. It was either submission or resistance by force. Although 1/3 of the colonies were Tories, those who believed in reconciliation with the mother country, 2/3 were in favor of rebellion. John Locke, who wrote of government run by the people, inspired leaders like Washington, Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Their voices would inspire many.
Thomas Paine (Document 6) convinced most British Americans in “Common Sense” that liberty was worth every effort including death. King George the III is referred to as a tyrant in Document 7 and established absolute tyranny over the states. His reputation is so damaged there is no reprieve for him. Rebellion was close at hand.
April 19, 1775, the British marched toward Lexington and Concord Massachusetts, the two towns known to the British for hiding guns and ammunition, and the shot hear around the world was fired- The American Revolution began. Patrick Henry’s words on March 23, 1775, had become to be the battle cry for the next six years. “Give me Liberty or give me death”.
Were they, the British Americans justified? Britain’s presence in North America, fighting the French for dominance of the continent, was costly and left Britain in much debt. This is true. Should the colonists have helped to pay for a war that was fought for their defense? Perhaps! But years of salutatory neglect made too many Americans aware of self-government and there was no turning back. It’s almost like saying, “Thanks for everything Mom. I appreciate it. But it’s time I go on my own now.”