Causes of the American Revolution

Following the conclusion of the Seven Years War, the British Empire was faced with insurmountable challenges to eliminate massive debt that was accumulated over the course of the war. The combination of debt accrued from the Seven Years War and the cost of maintaining forces in North America ???to quell Indian uprisings and stifle discontent among the French and Spanish populations,??? forced the British Empire to generate new revenue from their colonies, particularly the American colonies . Using a series of oppressive tax acts and other measures to generate revenue, the British effectively incited the notion of republicanism in the colonies and ushered in a new wave of widespread British opposition in colonial America by inhibiting on the economic, political, and social liberties of the colonists. All of which led to the American Revolution. However, within the colonial population, not all colonists were opposed to British rule. In addition to the Patriots, who were supportive of independent American rule in the colonies, there existed a second sect of the colonial population. The Loyalists, or Tories as they were known, were a group of colonists that were generally supportive of the British system and monarchy. While geographic region certainly played a definable role in which groups were supportive of the Patriots or Tories, affiliation and support of either the Patriot movement or the Crown could generally be tied back to wealth and class, dependency on the British economy, ties to the Empire, and even various political positions of Parliament and the British Empire.
In 1764, in order to generate revenue necessary to minimize the debt from the Seven Years War and the maintenance of British forces??™ in North America, the Sugar Act was instituted. The Sugar Act, which ???placed a duty on sugar imported into the colonies and revitalized the customs service introducing stricter registration procedures for ships,??? was compounded by increased jurisdiction for the already hated vice-admiralty court at Halifax . Not only did the newly implemented Sugar Act infringe on the livelihood of colonial merchants, but also stymied a smuggling industry that played a vital role in the colonial economy. Although protests by merchants and artisans took place in many cities, as well as a movement for non-importation on British goods in colonial America, the creation of further tax acts did not cease.
One year later, in 1765, British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Grenville instituted the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act ???required the purchase of specially embossed paper for all newspapers, legal documents, licenses, insurance policies, ship??™s papers, and even dice and playing cards??? . Both the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765 proliferated republicanism sentiments throughout the colonies. Predicated on the notion of ???no taxation without representation,??? many colonists called for greater representation in Parliament and greater accountability on those who mandated such tyrannical tax acts. By this time, anti-British attitudes now permeated throughout merchant and artisan communities whose business was significantly thwarted by the newly implemented taxes; lawyers who found Parliament??™s taxation on American colonists to be unjustified, and workers and poor people who bore the effects of unemployment, inflation and poverty that followed the Seven Years War. While the Stamp Act was later repealed and the breadth of the Sugar Act reduced, both were replaced by the Declaratory Act in 1766. Essentially, the Declaratory Act extended Parliamentary jurisdiction to all laws and all cases in the colonies; affirming absolute rule over colonial matters . Still, the issue of accumulated debt remained unresolved and again Britain would have to rely on tax acts to generate the necessary funds. This time, in 1767, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend implemented the Townshend Act that ???placed import duties on commodities such as lead, glass, paint, paper and tea??? . In order to more effectively enforce the act, Townshend created a series of courts dedicated to prosecuting violations of the act, and suspended the New York assembly that had refused to publicly support the British troops in the colony . The oppressive acts of the British would continue, and public opposition would only increase, sometimes violently as was the case with the Boston Massacre in 1770.
With the implementation of the Tea Act in 1773 and the Intolerable Acts in 1774, anti-British sentiments had virtually reached a breaking point. Within the Intolerable Acts included several policies sought to increase the British authority in Massachusetts. The Boston Port Bill closed Boston Harbor; the Massachusetts Government Act annulled the colonial charter and allowed the King to appoint elected officials in assemblies; the Administration of Justice Act protected British officials from colonial courts; and the Quartering Act legalized the housing of British troops. Collectively, these various acts, as well as numerous abuses of power by British troops throughout the colonies led not only to a proliferation of protests and virulent British opposition, but reinforced and even bolstered the oppressive image that had been attached to British rule in the colonies and ultimately led to the revolution.
Within the colonial population, attitudes regarding the position of the British monarchy in the activities and future governance of the American colonies wavered. Colonists were generally divided along two lines: those who supported the Patriots and American independence and those who supported the Crown, otherwise known as the Tories.
Predominantly, those who came to support the Patriots developed their support out of distaste, even a hatred of the absolute and tyrannical rule of the British crown in the colonies. Ranging from New England, particularly Massachusetts, to the Southern Colonies, supporters of the patriot movement were spread throughout the colonies. Merchants, Artisans, and Smugglers from port cities of New England ??“ particularly Boston – to tobacco planters in the Chesapeake region were severely impacted by the taxes imposed on their products, imports and exports. As such, many individuals in such industries came to strongly oppose continued British rule and taxation. Simply, many were ???trying to protect a trading position that was vulnerable to British attempts to regulate commerce??? . Many of the poorer, working classes individuals who worked in industries significantly impacted by British taxation such as dockworkers and farmers also came to support the Patriots as their already limited financial stability was compromised by British taxation.
However, primarily propagated by wealthy importers and exporters in major seaports and wealthy landowners in the Deep South, supporters of the Tories felt that American commerce??™s dependency on British trade affirmed the importance of a continued relationship with the Crown and opposed Patriots who sought to break free from British rule. Many of these individuals also included former colonial and court regulators and government officials that were dependent on Parliament for their income. That is not to say, however, that all wealthy groups came to support the Tories. Groups such as the Sons of Liberty who supported American independence were composed of wealthy and educated lawyers, merchants and statesmen who had supported the notion of ???no taxation without representation.???
Although a large majority of those individuals involved in the war on either side were direct descendents of English colonists, a wide variety of ethnic and even racial backgrounds played a role in supporting either the Patriots or the Loyalists. Blacks in the colonial population played a particularly interesting role. In 1775, John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore and Governor of Virginia issued Dunmore??™s Proclamation. In effect, Dunmore??™s Proclamation guaranteed ???emancipation of all slaves and indentured servants who would desert their masters and take up arms for the British??? . As such, a contingency of African slaves and indentured servants took up arms with the British army in opposition of the Patriots. Much like slaves and indentured servants in the south, large portions of the Indian population in the colonies supported the British cause in the colonies. For fears of American expansion into the western territories, as well as a general cause to maintain ???political independence, cultural integrity, and the protection of their land and property??? many of the Indian tribes came to support the British and Tories .
Those who remained loyal to the British crown, the Tories, generally had close ties in some capacity to the British Empire. As such, ???a large population of the Loyalists were relatively recent migrants to the colonies, born in England, Scotland or Ireland??? . Conversely, many of the colonists readily identified themselves as ???American??? rather than their original ???British??? national identity. This break in national identity precluded many Patriot supporters throughout the colonies from supporting a British cause, as they saw their fight against a tyrannical ???British??? rule and for ???American??? independence. Such newly acquired national identities also precluded ethnic groups from supporting the Patriots for a similar reason. Minority immigrant populations who felt threatened by the overwhelming ???American??? population came to support the Tories. Ethnic enclaves such as the Dutch in New York, Germans in Pennsylvania, and Highland Scottish groups generally saw higher levels of support for the Tories.
The American Revolution was born out of anti-British sentiments that had developed over the course of a series of oppressive and tyrannical tax acts, as well as abuses by British troops such as occupying civilian buildings, quartering in civilian homes, and assaulting civilians. Perceived not only as an infringement on the economic vitality of American colonists, but also on their natural rights and liberties, many colonists came to oppose British rule because of these various actions. However, just as many of these American colonists came to oppose British rule for their authoritarian and oppressive hand in American affairs, there existed a separate sect of British loyalists, or Tories. Unlike American patriots who wanted to break from British rule, Tories were generally comprised of groups who relied on a continued British presence in the colonies for economic purposes, had strong ties to the Empire, and different minority and ethnic groups whose freedom and security was greater under the British crown then under a new, American state. Although a minority as compared to the patriot supporters, both groups played an indelible role in the development of revolutionary sentiments and ultimately the war itself.