The Revolution

The Revolution Begins

The Policy of Mercantilism

Mercantilism, a dominant economic theory of the 16th to 18th centuries, revolved around the belief that a nation’s wealth was directly linked to its stockpile of precious metals, primarily gold and silver. Within this framework, colonies played a vital role. They were not just extensions of the mother country but key assets in this economic game, providing raw materials and serving as captive markets for finished goods.

The Colony’s Role in the British Empire

Colonial America, under the British Empire, was bound by the chains of mercantilism. The colonies were seen less as individual entities with their own rights and more as tools to enhance Britain’s global power. The raw materials they produced – be it tobacco from Virginia or fur from the northern territories – were shipped to England, processed, and often sold back to the colonists as finished goods.

Colonial Responsibilities

In return for the protection and economic structure provided by the mother country, colonies had certain obligations. They were expected to trade exclusively with Britain, ensuring a steady flow of raw materials. Additionally, they were to purchase British-made products, ensuring a profitable market for English merchants and manufacturers.

Mother Country’s Obligations

From Britain’s perspective, the primary duty towards its colonies was defense against foreign powers and maintaining trade regulations that favored the British economy. However, these obligations were not always fulfilled to the satisfaction of the colonies, leading to feelings of resentment.

Salutary Neglect

For a considerable period, Britain adopted a policy of “Salutary Neglect” towards its American colonies. This meant that while on paper, trade regulations were strict, in practice, they were loosely enforced. This allowed the American colonies a taste of autonomy, managing their own affairs and enjoying an era of legislative freedom. Over time, this neglect fostered a sense of independence in the American psyche.

The French and Indian War

The French and Indian War, a subset of the global Seven Years’ War, was a pivotal conflict that reshaped the landscape of North America. Fought between the British and the French, with various Native American tribes aligning with both sides, the war was as much about territorial dominance as it was about global supremacy.

Economic and Political Consequences for Britain

The war was expensive, draining the British treasury. As the dust settled and Britain emerged victorious, the empire found itself in deep debt. The vast territories won from the French, stretching from Canada to the Mississippi, required defense and administration. To offset the war costs, Parliament looked to the colonies, reasoning that since the war had been fought partly for their benefit, they should contribute to its expenses.

End of Salutary Neglect

With the war’s end, the era of Salutary Neglect came to a close. Britain began to enforce trade regulations rigorously, imposing taxes such as the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act. Additionally, measures like the Proclamation of 1763 sought to control colonial expansion and migration, keeping settlers east of the Appalachian Mountains. This shift, from a hands-off approach to direct intervention without colonial consultation, ignited a fire of discontent.

Colonial Reaction

The American colonies, having tasted a degree of self-governance and economic freedom, were not inclined to accept these new impositions quietly. They perceived them as infringements on their rights and freedoms.

No Taxation Without Representation!

This rallying cry encapsulated the colonists’ grievances. They believed it was unjust to be taxed without having a say in the matter – without having representatives in the British Parliament. It wasn’t just about the money; it was about the principle of self-determination.

The Sons of Liberty

Groups like the Sons of Liberty emerged in this climate of unrest. Comprising influential figures like Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, they organized protests, ensuring that the voice of dissent echoed loudly in both the colonies and across the Atlantic.

Acts of Rebellion

Resistance to British impositions took various forms. From the boycotting of British goods to public demonstrations, the colonists made their displeasure known. Symbolic acts, like the tarring and feathering of tax collectors, underscored the growing divide between the colony and the crown.

In this climate of increasing tension, it became clear that the relationship between Britain and its American colonies was at a turning point. The American Revolution was not just on the horizon; it had begun.

Check out more American History Topics, as well as notes on the Revolution.